This tax has existed is Wales since 2011, and in Northern Ireland since 2013, creating a 5p cost per bag. It exists as a targeted approach to address the environmental concerns of plastic carrier bags, encouraging the use of reusable products and paper products. The hope is to reduce litter, waste and carbon emissions.
In Northern Ireland, since the tax was introduced 3.25 billion fewer bags have been used, saving the equivalent of 58 000 tones of carbon dioxide a year, similarly in Wales usage has drop by round 75% (Ed Davey, 2013)
Introducing this system into Scotland and England comes with hopes of recreating this success. Money raised will go to “good causes”, including charities and environmental projects, but the real goal is to reduce usage.
Controversy has arisen in the English proposals as they plan to exempt small retailers from the tax. Many, including Joan Walley, chair of the Influential Environmental Audit Select Committee, believe this is shortsighted and will undermine the entire scheme, diluting the benefits of the scheme. The justification being that this exemption applies so as not to burden or cripple small businesses.
Some argue the point that supermarkets have backed this simply because they will no longer have to provide carrier bags for free. The issue of over-packaged food is not being addressed, and neither are produces such as bin liners.
However, most believe that this introduction is a no-brainer. The benefits seem to heavily outweigh the costs, and Wales & Northern Ireland have proven to give the expected outcomes.
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