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Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2008


Tuesday 20 May 2008


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Single Use Plastic Bags

The Petition of Councillor Ruth Potter of City of York Council and the people of York,

Declares that the petitioners support a plastic bag free City of York and calls upon the Council to achieve this aim.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to introduce legislation to ban or tax single use plastic bags.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Hugh Bayley, Official Report, 28 April 2008; Vol. 475, c. 138 .] [P000181]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

Thank you for your petition in which you ask the House of Commons to consider the introduction of legislation to ban or tax single use plastic bags. I have been asked to reply as policy for this is DEFRA’s responsibility.

The Government’s long term aim, as set out in Waste Strategy 2007, is that free, single-use carrier bags (both paper and plastic) should become a thing of the past. In November 2007 the Prime Minister announced that we needed to go further, and phase out single-use carrier bags altogether in favour of longer-lasting, more sustainable alternatives.

As part of this year’s Budget, the Government announced that it would be seeking to bring forward enabling legislation whereby a charge would be imposed on certain single-use carrier bags from 2009, unless retailers are able to achieve a substantial reduction in the number of bags distributed on a voluntary basis. Experience in Ireland and from trials in the UK by Marks and Spencer shows that a reduction of between 70 and 90 per cent can be expected if a modest charge is introduced.

We are not pursuing a ban on single-use carrier bags as this would be illegal under the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. The Directive lays down requirements on the composition of packaging; its reusable, recoverable and recyclable nature; and limits on it containing heavy metal concentrations. Article 18 of the Directive states that Member States shall not impede the placing on the market of packaging that satisfies the Directive requirements.