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Retailers in England may have escaped the controversial carrier bag levy longer than their Welsh and Irish counterparts, but with the London Assembly calling on the Government to introduce a mandatory charge on all single-use plastic bags, it looks as though we may have to follow suit, and sooner than we had hoped.

The move comes after the Assembly “unanimously” agreed that England was falling behind the rest of the United Kingdom by failing to introduce a charge on all single-use plastic carrier bags, and as such, supermarkets were unsuccessful in cutting the number of bags they hand out to shoppers.

Referring to the recent publication by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which revealed that the number of ‘thin-gauge’ plastic bags issued in the UK rose from 7.6 billion in 2010 to over 8 billion in 2011, the London Assembly said, “Supermarkets have failed to cut plastic bag use voluntarily. We now need decisive action.”

The Assembly is calling on DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs) to introduce a legislation that would force all retailers to introduce a mandatory charge on all single-use plastic carrier bags, but add that, “small businesses should be protected from any additional administrative burden.”

Wales was the first country within the United Kingdom to introduce a five pence carrier bag charge in October 2011, and while the move initially evoked outcry from both retailers and consumers, many reports now indicate that the ‘tax’ is widely supported.

Northern Ireland has confirmed it will introduce the levy from April 2013, the Scottish government are still ‘consulting’ on the issue, and with mounting pressure on the English Secretary of State for the Environment, it looks as though England may have to introduce a carrier bag levy of their own.

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