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Plastics: Packaging

Volume 459: debated on Monday 30 April 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the environmental impact of plastic bag use in supermarkets. (134040)

The Environment Agency is carrying out a study of the environmental impacts of a range of carrier bags, including disposable plastic carrier bags and bio-degradable alternatives. The study will look at their entire life-cycle from raw material extraction through to product manufacture. To date, the evidence suggests there would be no benefit in reducing the number of plastic bags in use if this encourages the use of alternative packaging or materials which are even more environmentally damaging.

The National Non-Food Crops Centre has also started work on Life Cycle Analysis comparisons of plastic, oxodegradable and biodegradable bags. The centre has established a Thematic Working Group on Biopolymers, which aims to promote and encourage the expansion of such materials. Biopolymers are derived from renewable sources and can be used in a range of products, including bags, which helps to develop a sustainable supply chain.

DEFRA continues to work closely with the devolved administrations, the Waste and Resources Action Programme, the British Retail Consortium, retailers and the plastics industry to develop a voluntary approach for reducing the environmental impact of carrier bags. Earlier this year, UK retailers agreed to reduce the overall environmental impact of their carrier bags by 25 per cent. by the end of 2008.