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Concern Over Plastic Bag Levy Vote in Assembly printable version
28 Feb 2011: posted by the editor - Northern Ireland
Ahead of this afternoon’s vote by Accelerated Passage of the proposed Plastic Bag Levy, Friends of the Earth, Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association and the British Retail Consortium have all urged the Assembly to rethink their approach and not to rush this legislation through.
Their call comes after the Assembly Environment Committee voted against Accelerated Passage of this legislation last week.
Retailers have expressed concern that the proposed legislation will be detrimental to the environment, add to the red tape burden on retailers and hit struggling working families.
Declan Allison from Friends of the Earth said: “Friends of the Earth support measures to reduce plastic bag use, but the proposed levy seems to be poorly thought through. It’s unclear if it is intended to discourage plastic bag use or if it is a revenue raiser. It has to do one or the other – it can’t do both.”
“The Department of the Environment has had £4m per year deducted from its budget to fund the Green New Deal, and it’s proposed the levy will raise enough money to replace it. It appears, therefore, that the levy is intended to be a revenue raiser. Using the levy in this way will send a confusing message to the public. Some of the work programmes that will be cut because the DOE is losing £4m per year are on fly tipping and the repatriation of illegally dumped waste. So, essentially, the public is being asked to buy plastic bags, thereby generating waste, in order to tackle waste. It’s a perverse and muddled message.”
Glyn Roberts, NIIRTA Chief Executive said: “This legislation does not need to be rushed through by Accelerated Passage as much more consultation needs to be done with retailers, environmental groups and other stakeholders. The Assembly Environment Committee supports that position and we are calling upon MLAs today to do likewise.
“We have real concerns that this legislation, far from protecting the environment will actually cause it greater harm as proven in the Republic where more consumers are buying black plastic bin liners (which take 1000 year to biodegrade on landfill) because single use bag usage has dropped.
“It will also put retailers in the position as unofficial tax collectors adding to their operating costs and an already growing red tape burden.
“Instead we would call for the Private Members bill to be parked until after the Assembly Election. A new strategy should be developed by the DOE, working with retailers, environmental groups and packaging companies, which builds upon the voluntary approach of educating customers and avoiding more plastic bags going to landfill.”
Jane Bevis, Public Affairs Director at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Protecting the environment isn’t simple. If a measure to restrict plastic bag use is rushed through there‘s a danger it will end up doing more harm than good.
“An Environment Agency report published in England in the last few days showed thin plastic carriers have the smallest carbon footprint of any bag.
Paper bags need to be reused three times and cotton bags more than 130 times before their impact on the environment is less.
“Latest figures from Wrap, the waste reduction body, found Northern Ireland had the second lowest usage of thin carrier bags of all the home nations, an average of just over eight per person per month.
“Rushing through legislation without understanding all the complexities could result in damaging unintended consequences, and undo some of the progress made so far. It risks increasing costs for consumers and businesses during an already difficult financial period.”
In the Republic figures for Black Plastic Sales were:
* Tesco – 77% increase in pedal bin liner sales
* SuperQuinn – 84% increase in nappy disposable bag sales
* SuperValue/Centra – 75% increase in swing bin liner sales
Evidence to Scottish Parliament, Environment and Rural Development Committee Hearings 2005
* The use of plastic bags in Ireland (including substitute bin liners) analysed through HM Customs figures shows the amount of plastic bags imported into Ireland has actually gone up after their bag tax from 29,846 tonnes in 2001 to 31,649 tonnes in 2006.
HM Customs statistics (analysed by Mike Kidwell Associates/PAFA 2007)
Tags: plastic bag tax
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