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Following increased pressure on the government to introduce a single-use carrier bag tax in England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has confirmed that they will be making a decision on the matter “sooner rather than later.”

Speaking at an environment debate in the House of Commons last week, Farming Minister David Heath told MPs that the department was “waiting for analysis of data from the first full year of the levy in Wales before making a decision on its policy” and that “early evaluation” and a “firm decision” will come soon after the data is received.

The Welsh government introduced a 5p plastic carrier bag charge in October last year, and while it initially provoked anger amongst local retailers, new reports suggest that the carrier bag tax is now “widely supported” throughout the region.

Northern Ireland will introduce the levy from April 2013, and Scotland is still ‘consulting’ on the issue, but the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said a carrier bag levy in Scotland “must be postponed until businesses have time to adapt to forthcoming waste regulations”, so it could be a while before this controversial tax heads north of the boarder.

Acknowledging that the UK packaging industry employs some 85,000 people and generates around £11bn for the countries domestic economy, Mr Heath said that he “wanted to see a successful synthesis of the country’s economic and environmental needs”, before reaching a final decision on the carrier bag tax.

A spokesperson speaking on behalf of the Plastics 20/20 Challenge, an initiative by the Plastics Industry, said that the government should resist “pandering to popular emotion” and make their conclusion based on DEFRA’s own study, which indicates that plastic carrier bags are kinder on the environment that carrier bags made of any other material.

The England carrier bag tax debate is likely to go on for some time, but one thing’s for sure; it is not in the bag just yet!

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