The plastic bag levy in England – too little too late

I believe the plastic bag levy planned in England is too little too late. The Republic of Ireland successfully introduced it 13 years ago and attracted worldwide admiration for reducing its use of plastic bags by 80%. Environmental officers from all over the world have visited them to learn the secret of their success, including China.

I went to the Republic when this charge was first introduced in 2002 to research and write about its implementation for an environment magazine. Traders managed to get to grips with it, as well as the introduction of the euro at the same time, and their plastic bag levy applies to all traders, not just supermarkets and large stores. It is stringently applied and traders who do not pass on the levy are fined. Proceeds go to environmental projects.

Our government has repeatedly fudged this issue (it is not a vote winner) and left it up to retailers to take the lead, with only M & S, Aldi and Lidl introducing a charge on plastic bags.

A similar charge applying to both plastic and paper is already in effect in Wales and Northern Ireland. The charge here, which will only apply to supermarkets and larger stores, will not being until after the 2015 election, with the proceeds going to charities.

I believe that all traders in England should be required to introduce this levy, just as they have in the Republic of Ireland without any difficulty, and I cannot see why we should wait until after the next general election; we should be an environmental leader, not a feeble follower.

*We have just received wheelie bins for the first time in East Cambridgeshire, and hey ho, it includes the co-mingled collection of mixed recylables which can be piled into one bin, instead of a selection of different bins and bags – six years after I first suggested this.  I told then how it had been working fine in New York; again, why did it take us so long?