Plastic Bag Taxes And Regulations

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Plastic Bag Taxes and Regulations


Any tax levied on bags should aim to change behaviour and any funds raised should be directed to projects that have clear benefits to the local environment e.g. It raised have been ring fenced and used to fund the national waste prevention plan and contribute towards an all fridge and freezer recycling contract. (Gezelius 2003: 137) Consumers in the UK used eight billion plastic carrier bags per year as of September 2000, equivalent to more than 150 million every week. Plastic packaging in the waste stream increased by 78,900 tonnes during 2000-2001. (Rosato, Marlene & Rosato 464)

Case Study

Fourteen Scottish businesses are fighting a proposal by Mike Pringle MSP for a plastic bag tax in Scotland. They are angry at the “junk science” which is being used to support claims that a bag tax would help the environment. (Hitchens 313)

A meeting held at Glasgow Airport attracted business leaders from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and many other parts of the country. They heard evidence that a tax on retail plastic bags at the proposed rate of 2000% would create greater environmental impacts, deprive consumers of their most popular re-useable household container, lead to an increase in retail theft and pose a longer term threat to public health by depriving consumers of bin liners and dog fouling bags.

And claims that a similar bag tax introduced in the Republic of Ireland had been successful were systematically demolished in a presentation from Peter Woodall representing the CBC which has already succeeded in convincing politicians at Westminster that such a scheme could not be justified.

“The people of Scotland should know that this idea constitutes nothing more than a cynical stealth tax designed to secure the votes of those who genuinely care about the environment but know little about life cycle environmental impacts,” Woodall told the audience. (Jeanrenaud 52) “It was attempted across the UK in 2002 and it failed because of the primacy of science. Now the pockets of the people of Scotland are being targeted in the good name of the environment. A bag tax would effectively remove the highly convenient, secure and hygienic method of carrying groceries home and disposing of kitchen waste whilst leaving everyone to purchase replacement bin liners.” The meeting heard how neither science nor common sense supported calls for a bag tax. Key points are:


It is claimed that plastic carrier bags are a large part of litter. The actual element of litter that is retail bags is estimated to be less than 0.3%. Taxing plastic bags to reduce litter would clearly therefore have no effect. (Barnard 56)

Litter of all types is caused by anti-social behaviour and includes empty drink cans, bottles, cigarette cartons, crisp bags and chewing gum.


It is claimed that plastic retail bags are a large part of landfill. Analysis shows however that plastic of all kinds comprises less than 7% of all landfill and that plastic bags including all bin bags and refuse sacks (used for the safe and hygienic containment of putrescible ...
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