Minister 'means business' on carrier bag levy for Wales

 
plastic bag The Welsh Government wants to cut down on the "excessive" number of bags which create litter

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Environment Minister John Griffiths says the Welsh government "means business" on the carrier bag levy.

He said shopkeepers who do not comply will be fined, although a lighter touch will be taken with enforcement in the first three months.

Shoppers in Wales will be charged at least 5p for single use bags from 1 October. It is the first UK nation to introduce the charge.

But there are claims confusion surrounds the levy.

The Federation of Small Businesses said said some shops were still baffled, but environmental groups said Wales was leading the way on reducing litter.

The Welsh government wants to cut down on the "excessive" number of bags.

All shops, from food stores to fashion retailers, will be required by law to introduce the levy, which it is hoped will encourage people to take their own bags shopping.

Mark Roberts, Co-operative Group: "We ask customers if they need a carrier bag, or actually want one"

The Welsh government wants to follow Ireland's example with a 90% reduction in carrier bag use.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "The introduction of our carrier bag charge demonstrates that Wales is a country that genuinely cares about protecting its environment.

"The Welsh public have always been very supportive of the introduction of this charge and I look forward to the dramatic reduction in unnecessary waste that it will bring."

Mr Griffiths told BBC Radio Wales: "We mean business from Day 1 because we expect people to remember their reusable bags right from the very beginning of the charge.

"There are civil penalties and they can run into hundreds of pounds and beyond, but it's not about fining retailers, it's about changing the way people behave and having less of a throwaway society.

Exemptions

BAG LEVY EXEMPTIONS INCLUDE:

Apples
  • Food items that are unwrapped - loose fruit and vegetables, bread, pick and mix sweets etc - or partly unwrapped, like takeaway chips.
  • Live aquatic creatures in water - fish, coral, crabs etc.
  • Unpackaged blades - axe, knife blade or razor blade.
  • Loose seeds and bulbs.
  • Packaged uncooked fish or meat.
  • Bags on board ships, trains, aircraft, coaches or buses.
  • For a full list click here

"We are quite clear that it will take some time for the change to bed in and that's why we've said that for the three months following 1 October, there will be a very light touch in terms of enforcement because everybody needs to get used to the new position."

Environmental groups, including Keep Wales Tidy and Waste Awareness Wales, have welcomed the charge, saying Wales is leading the way over the issue.

But the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Wales has raised concerns that some retailers are still unaware of the impending charges, despite the Welsh government sending out information packs.

It added that other shops had said they were confused about exemptions to the levy and how the fee would be enforced.

"There's a lot of confusion and I think it will take a long time for people to get used to the charge - both businesses and shoppers," said Non Rhys, Wales policy manager at FSB, which has around 10,000 members in Wales.

"Not all retail businesses will have had the packs from the Welsh government because there's not a list of all the retailers in Wales, so we have been trying to contact as many businesses as possible. But there will be some small businesses that do not know."

Biodegradable material

Analysis

Some retailers and pharmacists say they are pretty foxed by some of the rules surrounding this new law.

Some of the big retailers I've spoken to, e.g John Lewis, are going to put the money from the levy towards Keep Wales Tidy, while Tesco are sending their money to the RSPB, so the big stores are already nailing their colours to a particular charity mast.

But when it comes to the smaller retailers, the whole question of policing and how you get that 5p into the good causes bin is going to be an intense one.

The Welsh government is really looking to the Irish example. Nine years ago Ireland started charging for bags and it says now the average person only uses 26 plastic bags, compared with 328 when the charges were first introduced, so it's a massive drop and the Welsh government is looking for the same kind of fall here.

Leighton Jenkins, from CBI Wales, said it was not the time to impose additional regulation on Welsh businesses.

"We're concerned that these changes will cause confusion at the tills as consumers and retail staff struggle to interpret these complex and far reaching regulations.

"Fast-food restaurants and clothes stores are at a higher risk of facing such consumer confusion due to false public perceptions that the levy only applies to supermarket plastic bags when in fact it applies to all types of bags in all types of shops.

"Retailers have already been forced previously to retrain staff and change processes based on draft official guidance, now they will have to do this again due to the Welsh Government's failure to issue the final guidance until 27 September, just four days before the levy starts."

'Anomalies'

The British Retail Consortium, which represents all retailers, said its members were ready but that the Welsh Government still needed to "iron out potentially confusing anomalies" over the levy.

"It needs to explain and address anomalies which mean that, for example, you can have a free bag with a carton of chips but not if it comes with a burger in a box," said Bob Gordon, head of environment.

"Or a DIY shop can give you a bag for 500 screws but not for five or six."

Steven Madeley, centre director for St David's shopping centre in Cardiff, said the biggest challenge was making consumers aware of the change.

He said: "It will undoubtedly be a surprise for some shoppers when they are at the tills from Saturday but we need to do everything we can to communicate the message as this will be a big change to shopping culture and to the mindset of consumers."

Firms could face penalties of up to £5,000 if they give away single use bags made from plastic, paper or biodegradable material for free.

Local authorities will have to enforce the levy, although the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), said it was unlikely to be "top of the list of priorities" for trading standards and environmental officers.

90% reduction

Businesses with over 10 staff will be obliged to keep a record of the number of bags issued and account for how the proceeds from the charge are used.

Firms are being encouraged to give any profits to charitable and environmental causes.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said it had been "proactively communicating" with businesses to raise awareness and had sent out two separate information packs in March and August.

"We want to see shoppers avoiding the charge wherever possible by re-using their own bags," he said.

"We expect to see a 90% reduction in bag use once the charge comes into force."

Ministers in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also considering measures to reduce the use of carrier bags.

Prime Minister David Cameron has warned supermarkets that unless stores deliver "significant" reductions of the use of single-use bags over the next 12 months, they could either be banned outright from giving them away or be legally required to charge customers for them.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 190.

    make the bags biodegradable.
    This is a problem with supermarkets , as well as you have to drive to them (emissions) and now they are looking at smaller sites (Tesco express etc) i know it's probably too late but need to go back to the old greengrocers on the corner etc.
    At the end of the day though i'm sure there are more pressing things to deal with.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 189.

    Another silly idea from our so called Welsh Government??

    Now we cannot carry our shopping home in carrier bags by order of the Welsh Assembly. Another helpful idea to get Wales on the move?? What a load of twaddle they all are!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 188.

    "Remember to take bags with you", "bundle items into your car from the trolley" - fine for certain shopping habits. But if on foot and/or decide to do unplanned shopping (typical for tourists and others) it doesn't work.

    Of course it will appear to work. It doesn't mean it's a "good thing", but it keeps a certain type of person happy and is adding yet more inflation for others.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 187.

    LIDL doesn't supply bags ... they recycle their cardboard boxes. Most LIDL customers arrive with bags for life of some kind or another

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 186.

    I'm afraid the net impact on my plastic bag usage will be zero. I save all my bags from the weekly shop and use them as refuse sack when away in my motorhome. I can't remember the last time I threw away an empty carrier bag. So now I need to purchase plastic bin bags and the only people who have gained are the supermarkets that save the cost of my bags and gain a sale.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 185.

    I do not think it is right to charge customers for plastic bags. This is Forced Charity in the time of Austerity. Food prices have already gone up. Most of the people are cutting on their weekly rations to make both ends meet. Government and Local Bodies should think twice before introducing and supporting such silly schemes.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 184.

    @178. glamorgan9560

    But we don't have the ultimate weapon ... St. Mary's Street, Cardiff on a Saturday night ... aaaagh! It's full of bags after pub chuckout time ... normally ones advertising voluminous amounts of cellulite.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 183.

    yes stop bags altogether people will soon learn to bring thier own but it not just shoping bags its all plastic bags and bottles that mess the country side up.Plastic tops netting plastic is a good thing but its got to be used sensable and binned

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 182.

    Just another way for the tories to force us pay more to business for nothing more in return.
    If they had one ounce of decency between the whole lot of them they would have made the companies pay for each bag we use and then they could decide if they passed on the charge or not.
    But no tories love business and are happy to destroy the UK just so they get 1p more in profits

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 181.

    Can't help thinking there are more important issues right now!

    However, charging is nonsense, simply ban them completely. When in France, you just take your own bags or buy re-usable ones, it's not that hard to get used to.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 180.

    Europe is in tormoil, with the collapse of the Euro and all the Welsh can do is worry about carrier bags. Oh, there must be a God out there somewere.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 179.

    Why don't they put photos of dump sites on plastic bags, similar to the way they put nasty images on cigarette packets?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 178.

    @162 +164. Vote tory-Lib Dim then (unless your the eton mafia & save a banker mob) and starve, reason not to go to Wales! Good stay in England you have such a nice country don't you - mass Immigration and .9mm guns how nice for you! And half of South Africa in your cricket team.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 177.

    I do not agree in paying 5p a bag especially when you have just spent £120 on your weekly food shop, what about packaging surely that would of been a good place to start. Can anyone answer this what about when you buy a Chinese or Indian take away will you have to pay 5p for that bag also?

  • Comment number 176.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 175.

    Re 169: Unfortunately shops will not have the option to supply paper bags as the levy applies to them as well, so really this is just another TAX.
    Can't wait for it to kick off with the organ donar issue coming up as well. I will certainly opt out of that. People from England don't realise how luck they are.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 174.

    Comment 149. Agree disposable nappies should be highly taxed and should have VAT added as they are a luxury item. Terry towel ones are far better. Re carrier bags, they can be recycled time and time again for all sorts of things. I have material bags too but when goods leak into them they tend to shrink [even on a warm wash] making them useless. put rubbish straight into dustbin with no bag

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 173.

    Years ago there was the big push to move AWAY from paper bags (save the trees) so now we have a new problem that's even worse. Are we supposed to go back to killing trees? Instead of fines, a better incentive would be to offer shopping credits for using bio-degradable bags. Helloooo, reusable recycling kills two birds with one stone and rewards work better than punishment. What a concept.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 172.

    168. firemensaction

    Its only the leadership - the central committee - that are communist. The rest of China, although controlled by this internalised Dalek, is rampantly free market enterprise, capitalist, money-grabbing ...
    It's a sort of Com-servative government now - or would that be Con-unism?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 171.

    Like 118 achristian, we reuse the bags for waste disposal. I would say that they are far better as rubbish bags than the black bin liners. What they should have concentrated on was the amount of packaging waste that goes into our bins and the fact that some councils won't even touch recyclable plastic packaging, even though it's made from the same stuff as plastic bottles-which they will recycle.

 

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