Complicated carrier bag charges will cause confusion for customers, claims BRC

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Retailers have expressed serious disappointment that Government plans to charge for carrier bags will ignore the advice of the industry and a key Parliamentary committee and press ahead with an overly complex system that will confuse shoppers.

Retailers have consistently maintained that plans to charge 5p for carrier bags to cut waste, litter and carbon emissions must be kept simple for the scheme to work. This could be achieved simply by adopting the principle of schemes already operating effectively in other parts of the UK.

Exemptions for small retailers and excluding paper and biodegradable bags will make it confusing for consumers as they will be asked to pay for a bag in one shop but not in the shop next door. The BRC’s SME retail members have made it clear that they do not want to be exempted.

Despite calls for the charge to apply to all single use carrier bags, the Government has confirmed that the charge will apply to single use plastic carrier bags only. This makes no environmental sense and an Environment Agency study found that single use plastic bags have the lowest environmental impact of any type of bag. The same study found that a paper bag has to be used at least three times to have less environmental impact than a single use plastic bag.

A BRC spokesperson said: “A carrier bag charge is already working in Wales and Northern Ireland and will be introduced in Scotland in October and it makes no sense to do something different. Why not use the same scheme and keep it simple and effective?”

“If we are to have regulation it needs to work for consumers, the environment and retailers.  We are disappointed that the Government has chosen not to listen to the Environment Audit Committee, environment groups and retailers. This is poor regulation that will cause confusion for customers and businesses.”