Major retailers and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have successfully lobbied the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) for the forthcoming compulsory carrier bag charge in Wales to be cut by 2p.
All retailers in the principality will now have to charge customers 5p for a plastic bag, instead of the proposed 7p, once the legislation comes into effect in October 2011.
BRC criticisms revolved around the contradiction that bag-for-life carriers would be 2p cheaper than the standard bags, meaning customers would be more likely to purchase the thicker more environmentally-unfriendly product.
Bob Gordon, BRC Head of Environment, said: “Charging less for a bag-for-life appears, on the surface, to be a good way to get people to use them.
“But it would have encouraged customers to treat bags-for-life as disposable, which we need to avoid.
“There is more material in a bag-for-life and if it is taken home and thrown away immediately its environmental impact is up to eight times greater than that of a single-use carrier bag. That’s the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve.”
The Wales Online news website revealed today that major retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, McDonald’s, Burger King and Spar, have all lobbied the WAG against the proposed charge whilst it was in consultation during the summer.
Concerns are that compulsory charges unfairly punish the consumer and that the measure is not guarrenteed to change customer behaviour.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman told Wales Online: “We have estimated that the cost to our own customers based on current usage of bags in Wales will be circa £1.25 million per annum.
“At a time of recession and also in the context of us pursuing a programme of store building in Wales we do not feel this is a proportionate or strategic approach to supporting Wales or its people.”
Tesco has previously revealed that it has cut its use of carrier bags by 50 per cent since 2006 and has argued that this non-compulsory approach could meet environmental targets.
Gordon added: “You can’t shift consumer behaviour simply by legislating on charges. As we’ve always said, the key to reducing the environmental impact of carrier bags is education and persuasion rather then financial penalties.”