Wales politics

New Wales carrier bag-style charges 'a possibility'

Plastic bags in drawer
Image caption Single-use carrier bags cost 5p in Wales

The prospect has been raised of extending the 5p charge in Wales on carrier bags to other products and packaging.

The Welsh government says it has no plans to introduce more fees.

But it could be considered if it is deemed necessary to cut down on rubbish in the future, according to a government consultation.

Retailers said they would need to see detailed proposals, but that they were already reducing waste.

A Welsh government consultation on preventing waste says the 5p fee that shoppers pay for carrier bags has cut the number of bags in use and raised money for charity.

The Welsh government says it will "investigate the opportunities and benefits that could be derived from building on the success of the carrier bag charge, by extending to other products and packaging".

"There is no intention to introduce any new charges in the short term, but if they were deemed necessary after assessing the impact of voluntary measures, they may be considered in the medium to longer term," the document says.

Under an agreement known as the Courtauld commitment, supermarkets and food brands have pledged to reduce their impact on the environment. It includes targets to reduce the amount of packaging and boost recycling.

Responding to the idea of more compulsory fees, the British Retail Consortium said the industry was already making progress.

'Huge strides'

A BRC spokesman said: "We would need to see the detail of any future proposal but we are already making huge strides on packaging, including under Courtauld, continuing to work on optimising packaging and also delivering in the areas where the big environmental prizes actually are - particularly reducing the whole-life environmental impact of products - which the Welsh government has rightly highlighted here.

"The right approach to packaging is to develop packaging technology and ensure that the minimum packaging needed to do the vital job of protecting and preserving products is what is used.

"The environmental impact of food that goes off or products that are damaged is much greater than the impact of the packaging used around them."

Wales was the first part of the UK to introduce a mandatory charge for carrier bags in October 2011. Northern Ireland introduced a 5p charge this month.

Shops in Wales are expected to pass the proceeds on to good causes.

The policy will be reviewed in November 2014 at which point the Welsh government will look at whether the voluntary approach to donating the money is working.

The average Welsh household throws away food worth £480 every year, and Welsh government says it wants to break the link between economic growth and amount of waste society produces.

Its consultation runs until 20 June.

A Welsh government spokesman said: "There is currently no plan to introduce any new charges for packaging. This is just one of a number of measures that were considered as part of the Waste Prevention Programme consultation document.

"We will build upon the success of voluntary initiatives such as the Courtauld commitment which has made significant progress in helping retailers achieve ambitious waste reduction and recycling targets."

The spokesman said they were also looking to enhance support for manufacturers to create products which use less in terms of resources and can be recycled more easily.

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