DEFRA response to our single-use bag charge petition

On 2nd October 2010, the Plastic Bag Free Penrith team took to the streets, setting up a Bag Swap stall to swap shoppers plastic bags for a new PACT cotton bag.  We gave away all our bags...

We also asked shopper to sign a petition to the House of Commons calling for a charge to be introduced in England on single use plastic carrier bags.  Almost 500 signatures were collected on the day, with more collected later; the petition was handed in by our MP Rory Stewart.

DEFRA's response to our petition is dated 4 March 2011:

The Government is working towards a zero-waste economy.  To date the Government have sought to achieve reductions in the amount of carrier bags issued via voluntary agreements, rather than legislation.

The first of two voluntary agreements, between UK Governments and 21 high street retailers, reduced the environmental impact of carrier bags by 40% between May 2006 and December 2008, exceeding the 25% target.  Signatories to the agreement encouraged reuse of carrier bags, increased recycled content and reduced the weight of their carrier bags, amongst other measures.

The second agreement, between UK Governments and the UK's leading supermarkets (represented by the BRC), achieved a 48% reduction in numbers of bags distributed between May 2006 and May 2009.

The latest annual data for 2010 show a continuous year-on-year reduction in the numbers and in the weight of all bags.  Since 2006, these have dropped by 41% and 42% respectively.  For single-use bags, the reduction was 43% in numbers and 51% by weight.

The Government are currently undertaking a review of all waste policy and the issue of single-use carrier bags will be included in this.  This is expected to report in May.

This is our petition text:

To the House of Commons. The petition of supporters of Penrith Action for Community
Transition (PACT) in Penrith, Cumbria

Declares that the petitioners wish to see a significant reduction in the issuing of plastic
carrier bags by retailers through the introduction of a compulsory charge, as in the case
of Wales where a charge of 7p per bag is to be in place from spring 2011.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to
introduce the compulsory charge on the issuing of single use carrier bags in England, for
which it has the power under section 77 (and Schedule 6) of the Climate Change Act