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Monday, 16 November 2015 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

In one of our kitchen cupboards we have at least thirty free plastic carrier bags. They rarely see the light of day, but my wife refuses to throw them away because “they may be needed one day”. We have acquired them over the years from a number of sources including supermarkets, clothes shops and sporting events.

All are made of plastic and advertise the suppliers brand or wares. Occasionally she adds to them as a result of forgetting to take one with her to the shops, rarely do we reduce the stock because of oversupply. These bags are additional to the regular multi-use shopping bags made from recycled materials which reside in the trunk of my wife’s car for regular supermarket shopping. It seems a waste of space to me but any attempt on my part to persuade her to part with them is met with resistance on a par with suggesting she has too many clothes.

Now it seems the UK Government has decided to intervene by introducing at the beginning of October a tax of £0.05 on most “single use” plastic bags in an attempt to reduce the billions of bags thrown away each year and sent to landfill sites.

When I say a tax, the UK Government is now going to get £0.083 on each bag sold instead of given away, and has told the major retailers that they don’t expect to see the balance going to their profits. Instead, they expect it to go to a range of good causes. The Welsh Government introduced a similar levy in 2011 and has claimed a reduction of around 70% in the number of bags used.

On the face of it, it’s a good idea as the number of loose bags littering the cities and countryside in the UK is getting unmanageable, but it does create a few problems for shoppers. For example the shop can provide a free plastic bag for raw meat or loose fruit and vegetables. So if you buy a banana you can have a free plastic bag but if you buy a tin of soup, you pay. Also since the bags are provided in piles at supermarket checkouts and in particular at self-service check outs, will you be accused of theft if you take one by mistake without paying for it? Will you be chased down the street by a policeman as a result?

Winners and Losers of the New Plastic Packaging Laws

Plastic packaging in use and discarded

Plastic packaging in use, then discarded in the environment

It is not good news for the bag manufacturers, but it will remove a cost for supermarkets and potentially add a small boost to their profits if people continue to use them. It is good news for environmentalists who have scored a blow in their quest for an overall reduction of packaging materials used by supermarkets - we will see if they use it to press for further sanctions.

It’s not good news for me since my wife’s stock of plastic bags has now acquired a value of about £2.00 and I will never be able to get rid of them.

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