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Banish the bag

PUBLISHED: 15:27 05 March 2008 | UPDATED: 09:32 23 August 2010

A GREEN Party MEP is backing a supermarkets decision to charge customers for plastic bags. But Caroline Lucas, who represents north Kent, claims the effect on the environment will be minimal until supermarkets cut down on the levels of waste they produce

A GREEN Party MEP is backing a supermarkets decision to charge customers for plastic bags.

But Caroline Lucas, who represents north Kent, claims the effect on the environment will be minimal until supermarkets cut down on the levels of waste they produce.

Her comments come after Marks and Spencer announced last Thursday that they will charge customers 5p for plastic bags, with the money raised going to an environmental charity. B&Q said on Tuesday they will follow suit.

Ms Lucas said: "I fully support any retailers and businesses who charge customers for plastic bags. The decision by Marks and Spencer will certainly go some way to encouraging shoppers to recycle old ones and to purchase long-life reusable carriers.

"Recent figures suggest that out of 12.4 billion plastic bags handed out at checkouts each bag is used on average for only 20 minutes before being thrown away. This level of waste is simply unsustainable.

"In the longer term, I would like to see the UK move towards forcing the supermarkets to take a much greater responsibility for the waste they produce. M&S may be basking in the glory of its plastic bag initiative but until it tackles the copious amounts of packaging used to contain its goods, the positive effects may be negligible.

"Without greater Government regulation on waste and environmental damage, such small changes, while they can make a difference, are alone insufficient in tackling dangerous climate change and should not allow political leaders off the hook."

The move by Marks and Spencer follows a trial at 50 of its stores in Northern Ireland and south- west England which resulted in demand for polythene bags falling by more than 70 per cent.

Stuart Rose, chief executive of Marks and Spencer, said: "We want to make it easy for our customers to do their bit to help the environment and our trials have shown us that they want to take action.

"Just imagine if M&S customers right across the UK cut the number of food bags they use by 70 per cent that's over 280 million bags they'd be saving every year."

ed.riley@archant.co.uk

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