Rumours that the UK government could be planning to outlaw free plastic bags unless retailers get their act together have been welcomed by environmental campaigners.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quoted in a national newspaper this week as saying that the government is ready to do what it can to encourage a change in the way we use these bags.

He said cutting plastic bag use is “one of the most straightforward ways in which we can all do something directly to improve our environment and reduce pollution.”

As we reported just a few weeks ago,  Green England  launched a petition last year calling on the government to introduce a tax of 10p per plastic bag.  Experts say that bags can last up to 1000 years and  in Britain, they spend much of that time in a landfill site or strewn across the countryside.

Mr Brown this week praised retailer Ikea for cutting plastic bag use by 95 per cent and said he welcomed the move by Marks and Spencer to start charging shoppers for carrier bags.

His comments have fuelled rumours that ministers are ready to bring in new laws about single-use plastic bags if retailers don’t find a way to reduce their use – and it’s thought that the climate change bill could be amended to introduce the legislation.

But the Conservatives have accused Mr Brown of hypocrisy, claiming that the government has ordered more than a million Whitehall-branded carrier bags over the past two years.

Shadow communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “While Gordon Brown lectures the public on the environment, his own ministers are fuelling Britain’s throw-away culture.”

In Britain, we throw away billions of carrier bags every year and campaigners are anxious to have a charge introduced to persuade people to use less.

But pro-plastic lobbyists claim that most supermarket bags are re-used, as bin bags for example, and if people can’t get them for free they’ll start buying  plastic bin bags.




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