Bid to bag new tax from shoppers
PLANS for a tax on plastic carrier bags in Scotland were unveiled yesterday in an attempt to help protect the environment.
Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Pringle said that his Plastic Bag Levy (Scotland) Bill would help local councils meet targets to reduce waste, claiming the bags were a "menace", and said all the money raised could fund environmental projects.
Environmental campaigners gave the plans a warm welcome, but the plastics industry and retailers encouraged MSPs to question the initiative, saying it was based on the "the very worst case of junk science". The Scottish Executive has yet to decide whether or not to support the bill and is awaiting the results of a study.
A similar levy introduced in the Irish Republic three years ago has raised millions of euros for environmental improvement schemes.
Mr Pringle's bill, which it is agreed could come into force by late 2006 or early 2007, requires shops to impose a 10p charge for each plastic carrier bag.
With more than a billion plastic bags used in Scotland every year, considerable funds could be available from the scheme. Councils would have to collect the money and spend it on environmental improvements within their area.
Mr Pringle, MSP for Edinburgh South, said: "Plastic bags are given out by shops and consumers are paying for them in higher costs for their shopping. They cause litter on our beaches, they are a danger to wildlife and they all end up in a landfill site. By placing a small charge on each bag, the shoppers will only take those that they need."
He said there was evidence in Ireland that the "plastax", as it is known, has led to a 90 per cent reduction in plastic-bag use, significantly benefiting landfill sites, where the bags take up to 100 years to break down.
Dr Dan Barlow, the head of research for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "An environmental levy which reflects the external costs of our wasteful resource use is welcome."
The Green Party co-convener, Shiona Baird, MSP, said her party would support the bill, but insisted that polythene bags made up only a fraction of household waste compared to the sheer volume of other packaging, and taxing polythene bags was not a solution in itself.
The home-improvement retailer B&Q last year introduced a 5p "tax" on plastic bags at its Scottish stores to help the environment, while the furniture giant Ikea recently unveiled a similar initiative.
But Peter Woodall, of the Carrier Bags Consortium, pointed out that the UK government had already rejected a similar plan after a study suggested it would not help the environment. He said that up to 1,000 jobs could be lost in Scotland under the proposed legislation.
Mr Woodall said: "This bill and the environmental claims made for it are absolute nonsense and based on junk science. Eighty per cent of people already re-use plastic carrier bags as binliners.
"Retailers will turn to paper bags, which experts say are far worse for the environment because of the extra weight and the extra pollution created. They degrade in landfill creating methane and carbon dioxide - the biggest global problems we face."
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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