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BRC: Plastic bag charges will confuse shoppers

The government’s plans to introduce charges for plastic bags in England are “overly complex” and do not go far enough to reduce the environmental impact of retailing, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said.

In a highly critical statement, the BRC said the government’s plans to introduce exemptions from the charge “ignore the advice of the industry” and could lead to a confused message to shoppers.

A 5p charge will be brought in across England from October next year, but will not be applied to carrier bags made from non-plastic materials, nor for retailers with fewer than 250 staff. The government said this was to avoid a potential loss of business to smaller local shops.

The BRC said the government’s decision to exempt single-use bags made from materials other than plastic contradicts the findings of an Environment Agency study, which said plastic bags were less damaging to the environment than paper bags.

A spokesman for the BRC said: “If we are to have regulation it needs to work for consumers, the environment and retailers. We are disappointed that the government has chosen not to listen to the Environment Audit Committee, environment groups and retailers.

“This is poor regulation that will cause confusion for customers and businesses.”

In Northern Ireland and Wales, a charge is already in place covering all single-use bags of all materials. This will be extended to Scotland in October this year.

The BRC has also criticised the government’s decision to leave smaller businesses out of the charge, saying “[our] SME retail members have made it clear that they do not want to be exempted”.

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