The London Assembly has called on the Government to introduce a mandatory charge on all single-use plastic bags in light of supermarkets’ failure to cut the number they give out to shoppers.
The motion, agreed unanimously by Assembly Members, urges the Secretary of State for the Environment to enact reserve legislation, part of the Climate Change Act 2008, that would force retailers to introduce a levy on all single-use plastic bags.
According to figures from the waste reduction body Wrap, supermarket customers used almost eight billion carrier bags in 2011, a 5.4 per cent rise on the 7.6 billion in 2010, with each person using an average of almost 11 a month.
Jenny Jones AM, who proposed the motion, said:
“Free supermarket plastic bags are a myth; they cost us a lot money to deal with as damaging rubbish. Almost 1.5bn are given out in London every year, most destined to be used for no more than 20 minutes before being thrown away.
“The shame is that discarded bags are one of the easiest environmental problems to solve – a simple levy introduced in Ireland cut their number by 90 per cent – yet in England, the number being given out by the big supermarkets is actually rising.
“Supermarkets have failed cut plastic bag use voluntarily. We now need decisive action."
Murad Qureshi AM, who seconded the motion, said:
“You just have to go down the foreshore of the Thames to see the damage discarded plastic bags can do to our environment. Single-use plastic bags take decades to break down and are a hazard to plants and animals as well as being an eye sore for visitors and residents alike.
“England is clearly falling behind the rest of the UK on this issue. Wales has already introduced a charge, with Scotland and Northern Ireland due to follow suit. The Mayor pledged to introduce a levy on single-use plastic bags in the run up to the Olympics, I hope he hasn’t forgotten about it.”
Andrew Boff AM, who successfully amended the motion, said:
“We recognize that these are difficult times for small business so it is essential that any levy on single-use bags does not put an unnecessary burden on them. However, there is no excuse for the incredible waste we witness everyday from the big supermarket chains.
“As it does not look like they the supermarkets are about to change their ways, its time for the Government to intervene. A small charge, introduced in the right way, could make a big difference.”
The full text of the amended motion agreed at today’s meeting reads as follows:
"This Assembly notes the failure of supermarkets to prevent an increase in the number of single use plastic bags issued by them, through voluntary measures, over the past two years. It also notes the London Assembly's 2007 report, 'Bag to Basics', which supported the introduction of a national levy on single use carrier bags.
This Assembly calls on the Mayor to request that the Secretary of State for the Environment enacts the reserve legislation in place under the Climate Change Act 2008, and introduces a mandatory charge on all single use carrier bags, ensuring that small businesses are protected from any additional administrative burden."
Notes for editors:
- The motion was agreed unanimously at a meeting of the full Assembly yesterday. Watch a webcast of the meeting. The debate is 3hrs, 15min into the meeting.
- Bag to Basics, published December 2007
- As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.
For more details, please contact Alastair Cowan in the Assembly Media Office on 020 7983 4504/4283. For out of hours media enquiries please call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the Assembly duty press officer. Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit, Greater London Authority, on 020 7983 4100.