Headlines: March 1st, 2007



Council leaders say an agreement by leading retail stores to cut the environmental impact of plastic carrier bags does not go far enough. Retailers have pledged to encourage customers to reduce the number of bags they use, to offer more recycling facilities and to use more recycled material in making bags in an effort to reduce their environmental impact by a quarter.

But the Local Government Association says the shops need to be more innovative in dealing with the problem. Paul Bettison, Chairman of the LGA Environment Board, said the retailers’ pledge showed that they recognised the damage done by the 13 billion plastic bags used each year in the UK, but the cut of 25 per cent in two years was not enough.

“Most people throw their bags straight into the bin once they’ve unpacked their shopping which means the bag ends up being buried in landfill,” he said. Councils were on the frontline in the fight against climate change and worked hard to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. “We call on retailers to be more innovative in this area. Retailers should think of giving customers reusable fabric bags as some responsible businesses do already here and abroad,” Councillor Bettison added.

The retailers’ move is part of a joint initiative by all parts of the retail sector in response to a call from Environment ministers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The campaign is also being supported by the British Retail Consortium and WRAP – the Waste and Resources Action Programme, which manages waste prevention programmes for the four governments. Under the agreement individual companies will be free to respond in ways they believe are best suited to their style of trading and their customers. The agreement also recognises the work already being done by some retailers through a variety of approaches to the problem.

The Local Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said the agreement was ambitious but practical. If the 25 per cent reduction target is met it could cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 58,500 tonnes a year.