Plastic bag tax slated as unnecessary

Retailers have criticised government plans for a levy on plastic bags, claiming

legislation is unnecessary because work is already under way to limit their use.

In last week's

Budget , Chancellor Alastair Darling said laws would be introduced from next year to force retailers to charge customers for bags if they were not making enough progress voluntarily.

But the industry has hit back. Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: "Retailers have already committed to reduce the ­environmental impact of plastic bags by a quarter by the end of this year. Huge progress has been made without any need for legislation.

"Customers took a billion fewer bags in the

past 12 months and retailers are over half way to achieving the target on cutting the use of new plastic. This shows bans or taxes are not the only way."

The Co-op says its initiatives have already reduced the number of plastic bags it gives out by 38 % and it is currently trialling a compostable carrier bag.

"We believe that working with the communities in this way is the best approach and we will co-operate with the government on the development of any initiatives to reduce the usage of plastic carrier bags," a spokesman said.

The Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman added: "There are countless excellent initiatives by independent retailers aimed at reducing bag use. A levy on carrier bags would, if introduced sensitively, hold no fears for convenience stores."