The good news, national and international

 This section contains news of growing support, awareness and improving practice in the UK and elsewhere, the most recent at the top. While consumers appear to favour bans or paying for bags, and some governments, states, towns, and shops large and small have taken action to reduce or end their use of plastic bags, these stories do raise further questions and issues: sometimes they announce a forward step that never gets implemented; and when there is real progress, we have to wonder why it doesn't happen everywhere. If Ireland and China, to take just two examples, can act, why can't we? 
For local and less happy news, see stories highlighted in side menu.

2014

5p plastic bag charge announced , 4/6/14
BBC News (UK) @BBCNews <https://twitter.com/bbcnews?refsrc=email>
https://twitter.com/bbcnews/status/473935164553170944?refsrc=email>
Daily Mail front page - "At last! Plastic bags will be banished"
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27683240

Plan B Update: "The Downfall of the Plastic Bag: A Global Picture" by Janet Larsen and Savina Venkova, May 2014 - an excellent summary of the problem, and current and past global initiatives to combat it. 

"Break the Bag Habit" - Greener Kingston and Greener Upon Thames welcome a new website where you can pledge to refuse single-use bags. See the 9 April 2014 Break the Bag Habit press release here.

"The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) says the current proposals are "unnecessarily complicated" (Feb 2014) and is pressing for the same regulations as we are (see below). 

 

2013

September 14, Nick Clegg announces 5p levy on plastic bags! See government press release at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plastic-bag-charge-set-to-benefit-the-environment and a report on Sky News which includes Mike Glazebrook  of Greener on Thames and local MP Edward Davey. Greener Kingston and Greener upon Thames joined other campaigns in the Break the Bag Habit coalition in welcoming the plans to introduce a 5p charge on single use plastic bags in England, but as details emerged became more critical. Campaigners believe that the charge should follow the model in Wales, which has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the number of single-use bags blighting the natural environment. As in Wales, the charge should apply to all businesses, large or small, with consistency between different shops; if all retailers are included, no single shop will be disadvantaged by the charge - and we note that many small businesses would prefer to be included. We would also like to see a reduction in all single use bags regardless of what they are made of: replacing one free throw-away bag with another made from a different material will not promote the necessary behaviour
changes and good habits, it merely shifts the problem. See some comment about the exemptions at http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25240097. We also wonder why it will take so long to introduce a charge that has already been extensively and successfully piloted in Wales, and found it disappointing that DEFRA's 2013 on-line consultation on the 5p charge was addressed solely to
businesses, not consumers.

 

September 4, David Cameron tells campaigning children and an albatross called Stanley that he knows carrier bag charging works - see

A four metre wide albatross made from recycled bottles and children from Stanley Primary School in Teddington met with David Cameron at Downing Street today to tell him about the dangers of plastic pollution and to urge him to introduce a charge on single use carrier bags in England.

Standing on the steps of No.10, the Ecotales group read their poem ‘Dear Albatross’ and gave the Prime Minister a letter from Greener upon Thames detailing the Government’s own figures on carrier bag usage, which confirmed an increase of 12.2% in England between 2010 and 2012 - an increase of over 750 million bags to more than 7 billion per year - whilst in Wales, which has had a charging scheme in place since October 2011, there was an 80% decrease in usage.

Two years ago, the Prime Minister said that any increase in usage was ‘unacceptable’ and that if the number of bags given out in England didn’t decrease he would consider other options, such as introducing a charge. Now, England remains the only home nation not to have taken decisive action to reduce the waste, pollution and blight of single-use bags, with Northern Ireland introducing a scheme in April 2013 and Scotland confirming it will introduce a charge in October 2014.

David Cameron told the group that he knew how successful the scheme was in Wales and that they had come at the right time, as he was just discussing a similar scheme for England – something which CPRE is calling for as part of the Break the Bag Habit campaign.

Zac Goldmsith MP, who attended the event, said: ‘The PM has spoken in the past about the need to take action, and it was reassuring to hear not only that he was discussing the issue today in Number 10, but that he has noted the successful bag charge in Wales. I know many people are looking forward to the next step here in England.’

We say: "Well done, Greener Upon Thames!"

 

Charge, though not ban, being considered in England (May 2013) - at last say we!

Northern Ireland plastic bag levy could reduce litter, (BBC news, April 2013) - yet another place imposed a levy ahead of England!

"Ecover to turn sea plastic into bottles in pioneering recycling scheme: Green cleaning brand claims plastic trawled from the sea can be used to create fully sustainable and recyclable packaging..." (Guardian, March 2013)

Actor Jeremy Irons is lending his voice to an EU campaign to ban non-recyclable plastics, including plastic bags, in an effort to end the growing mountain of plastic waste in our environment. (C4 News, March 2013)

 

2012

Higher recycling targets for plastics, aluminium and steel packaging "look set to come into effect from January 2013, after MPs agreed to amended packaging waste regulations in Parliament today (November 27, 2012). The approved regulations would replace existing packaging recycling legislation, which expires at the end of this year, and set recycling and recovery targets through to 2017."

Evening Standard, "City Spy: Zac’s down with the kids in Tesco", 19/10/12  

Zac Goldsmith MP calls for a levy on plastic bags: read and watch at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19977021.

Environmental groups demand plastic bags should be charged, August 1, 2012: England is the only part of the UK which has no plans for a plastic bag charge, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage are calling for one to be brought in. Reported on August 1 2012 by: The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/aug/01/plastic-bag-levy-supermarkets?newsfeed=true The Press Association http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5i7q3UgBZ_fc35d-owy7pEbmZBr7A?docId=N0139501343730035190A Yahoo news / Sky News http://uk.news.yahoo.com/call-levy-tackle-plastic-bag-scourge-060443797.html BBC Radio 4 Today programme and many many others.

Haiti Bans Plastic Bags and Foam Containers, October 2012 

Daily Mail, 23/9/12: Plastic bag tax: Treasury opposition is the 'last log jam' to imposing a levy, Liberal Democrats claim. Liberal Democrats adopt new policy demanding a charge of up to 10p to fund community food projects. Party environment spokesman Andrew George says resistance from George Osborne is the final hurdle. Treasury insiders insist all options are still on the table. Bag use rose by around five per cent to 6.75billion in 2011-12 despite David Cameron demanding reductions... George Osborne’s opposition to a plastic bag tax is the last remaining barrier to the introduction of a levy in England, Liberal Democrats claimed today as they voted to bolster their ‘weaponry’ against the Treasury’s resistance.The Lib Dem conference backed a motion demanding a levy on all single-use plastic bags, with proceeds to go to community food initiatives.

 

Letter in Daily Telegraph demands plastic-bag-free Olympics, 26/7/12 

Festivals can be green
Latitude offers priority for car pooling, uses reusable beer mugs and compostable-only items at food outlets, NO plastic bags, and has lots of of recycling/composting points very clearly labelled with free recycling/composting bags for campers etc. See http://www.latitudefestival.co.uk/info/category/latitude_green - and follow their example!

Proof a plastic bag tax works (Daily Mail, 5/7/12): Welsh levy has seen the amount of bags given away fall 96%Wales introduced 5p tax on bags in October last year. Support for the scheme has risen 70% in six months. Scotland and Northern Ireland introducing similar schemes as pressure mounts for England to follow suit.

Tuesday 26 June, a consultation begins in Scotland on proposals to charge shoppers for disposable carrier bags.
The cost could be at least 5p for one, which is hoped to raise as much as £5 million for charity and cut usage by around 80%. It is part of a wider three-month Scottish Government consultation on a range of plans aimed at safeguarding resources through efficient use of materials such as cutting waste and encouraging more positive environmental behaviour.
Our comment: "If Scotland and Wales and Ireland can do it, why can't England?"

 What should be done about plastic bags?, BBC News, 19 March 2012
The European Commission is to publish proposals in the spring designed to reduce the number of plastic bags used in Europe each year. Most of the 15,000 people who took part in a public consultation favoured an outright ban - but what are the options?
Every year 800,000 tons of so-called single-use plastic bags are used in the European Union - the average EU citizen used 191 of them in 2010, the Commission says, and only 6% were recycled.
More than four billion bags are thrown away each year.
"The impact of this plastic waste can be seen littering our landscape, threatening our wildlife and accumulating as 'plastic soup' in thePacific Ocean, which may cover more than 15,000,000 square kilometres," says Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik… 

Coca Cola has announced plans to collect all clear PET plastic bottles at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and recycle them into 80 million new plastic bottles.

A 5p plastic bag tax, rising to 10p in 2014, will be imposed throughout Northern Ireland from next year, The Guardian, 31/1/12: "We want to demonstrate that the Northern Ireland government is dedicated to the clean and green agenda," Alex Attwood, environment minister in the Northern Ireland executive said. "One way to do that is to reduce the 160m plastic bags that are used in Northern Ireland every year." He added: "There is no doubt that carrier bags are a scourge on the environment. Evidence from other countries demonstrates that a bag levy is a simple and effective means to reduce substantially the negative environmental impact of carrier bag consumption…"

EU plans to ban plastic bags - but the Daily Express opposes (too green, too European, would reduce impulse shopping - shame!)

Lewes MP supports plastic bag ban, January.

 

2011

Plastic bags banned in Seattle, December 19, 2011:  Seattle City Council has passed an impressively broad ban on plastic bags, outlawing them not just in grocery stores, but in department stores, clothing stores, convenience stores, home-improvement stores, food trucks and farmers markets. The bill goes further than bans in other cities. Customers in Seattle will be charged 5 cents for paper bags.

Vivienne Westwood interviewed in The Guardian (3/12/11)  mentions her support of Greener's Olympic campaign: "Her most recent blog posts detail her multifarious radical interests: she backs a fundraising campaign for the Refugee Council, pledges her support for Greener upon Thames, an organisation campaigning to make next year's London Olympics plastic-bag free..."

Minister 'means business' on carrier bag levy for Wales, BBC News, 30/9/11
"Environment Minister John Griffiths says the Welsh Government "means business" on the carrier bag levy…The Welsh Government wants to cut down on the "excessive" number of bags. All shops, from food stores to fashion retailers, will be required by law to introduce the levy, which it is hoped will encourage people to take their own bags shopping. The Welsh Government wants to follow Ireland's example with a 90% reduction in carrier bag use…. "We want to see shoppers avoiding the charge wherever possible by re-using their own bags," he said… Ministers in England,Scotland and Northern Ireland are also considering measures to reduce the use of carrier bags."
See Greener Upon Thames website  press release on this news and our 2012 Olympics campaign.

Tesco agrees to Somersham's plastic bag ban, BBC News, 5/9/11
TheSomershamTescois believed to be the first in theUKnot to offer free bags to customers. A newly-opened supermarket has agreed to support a Cambridgeshire village's ban on disposable plastic bags.

"What do plastic bags and lying politicians have in common? They blight Britain and drive me mad!" John Humphrys in The Daily Mail, 25th August 2011 joins the many eminent people concerned about the waste, pollution and litter caused by plastic bags and the slowness of politicians to tackle the problem.

"Boris calls for plastic bag ban across London in fight against 'poisonous' waste and litter", Daily Mail, 5/8/11

Calls for tax on carrier bags after failure of supermarkets
The Government is looking at a tax on carrier bags in England after the number of shopping bags handed out by supermarkets rose for the first time in five years, Telegraph, 29/7/11.
Our comment: "At last!" 

Another ally in the war against plastic bags - the Archbishop of York reported in The Guardian, July 2011

 Lembit Opek spotted at London   Green Fair, June 2011 (left)with a Greener Upon Thames long-life bag!

Congo has banned plastic bags, June 2011. 
Meanwhile even the USA is stirring: private bill in the House of Representatives to introduce a tax on disposable carryout bags was introduced in April 2011. Why oh why can't we...?

"THE EU was under fire last night for seeking a ban on plastic shopping bags to fight pollution." (Daily Express, 20/5/11) - but not from environmentalists, of course, just the usual suspects: UKIP, British Retail Consortium... Read more: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/247722Ban-shopping-bags-says-EU#ixzz1MuNrtV5o

EC to pay fishermen to catch plastic waste (from European Environment and Packaging Law Weekly)
'The European Commission will, this month, unveil a trial project under which Mediterranean fishermen will be paid to catch plastic waste rather than fish. In a speech last month, Maria Damanaki, EU Fisheries Commissioner, said that under the European Fisheries Fund, "fishermen and stakeholders" would be encouraged to take part in "fishing for litter" initiatives. The idea is to reduce pressure on fish stocks while also contributing to the preservation of the marine environment by rounding up the plastic detritus that is threatening marine life, and send it for recycling.

Damanaki said that the first initiative of this type will be launched on 20 May in France. "In specifics, a pilot project will be launched under the auspices and funding of the European Fisheries Fund and in cooperation with the sectors of fisheries and plastics industry whereby the marine litter will be collected by special fishing vessels and sent for treatment.
"There will be a multiple benefit from this. On the one hand, we will have a visible result in terms of decontamination. Much of the litter collected will be recyclable, so this will also have an extra benefit for the economy. On the other hand, fishermen will be able to engage in an alternative activity which will bring them additional income, especially during the time periods when they stop fishing," she said.

Speaking to EE&PL on 5th May, a Commission official said that initially fishermen who clean plastic waste will be subsidised by member states but that in future "the scheme could turn into a self-sustaining profitable enterprise", as fishermen benefit from the increasing value of recycled plastics.

"Ridding the sea of its plastic waste will also improve the prospects for fish, seabirds and other marine species, which are at risk of ingesting small pieces of non-biodegradable packaging," he said.
The plan, as well as an attempt to handle seaborne plastic waste, is also aimed at pacifying the EU’s fishing industry over a potential prohibition on the wasteful practice of dumping low-value fish at sea.
"Ending this practice of throwing away edible fish is in the interest of fishermen and consumers," the Commissioner added. "It has to happen, we cannot have consumers afraid to eat fish because they hate this problem of discards. People [in the fishing industry] feel insecure because this is a change. That is why they need incentives."
Fleets fear they will lose money by not being able to throw away lower-value catch for which they say there is little demand. A million tons are thrown back each year in the North Sea alone. Fishermen will be paid to land plastic to provide them with income.
"It’s safe to say this could end up replacing significant income for fishermen," the Commission official told EE&PL.
The industry will contribute to the pilot but it is not known how much each fisherman will get. Payments will depend on tonnage and the recycling market.
EE&PL understands that the Commissioner has the backing of key countries like France, Germany, Denmark and the UK and will publish her proposals in the coming weeks for debate by the European Parliament and Council.

UK reactions
In the UK, while Plastic 2020 Challenge, an industry campaign that supports recycling and preventing litter, backed the move, the South West Fish Producers’ Organisation, questioned why payments were necessary, given the success of a voluntary scheme already running in Britain.
"I am glad they are catching up with us," Jim Portus, chief executive of the organisation, said. "Obviously they feel the need to incentivise this scheme in the Mediterranean with a bit of cash encouragement. But ultimately, any cash incentives come from the taxpayer. It seems to me we should be encouraging people to do it for free for the good of the environment.
"The fishermen should want to do it anyway," he added.'

Our comment: "We suppose it's a good thing that more plastic waste will be cleared up and recycled as a result of this incentive - but what a shame that it is necessary!"

Plastic fantastic! Carrier bags 'not eco-villains after all' Independent on Sunday, 20/2/11
Unpublished Environment Agency research shows polythene may be less harmful than cotton or paper.
Our comment: "This would be good news if it were true - but the research only shows that cotton bags that are not resused are worse than plastic (no great surprise there!) and it ignores the damage that plastic bags and other plastic waste does to wildlife and the environment, and the litter they cause."
See also Letters responding to the news.

Celebrities come out against plastic bags
Greener Upon Thames already has two impressive patrons, environmentalist and local MP Zac Goldsmith and British ocean rower, environmental campaigner, and author Roz Savage. Other celebrities are following their example: Richard Branson recently sent a message of support for GUT's Plastic-Bag-Free Olympics campaign, and actress Alison Steadman declared: "I am a great campaigner for not using plastic bags and not using plastic" in The Independent on Sunday on 13/2/11 (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/alison-steadman-im-a-little-bit-pam-but-more-candice-marie-2213124.html). Watch this space for updates on celebrity supporters.

Italy bans plastic bags, beginning January 1, 2011.
Planet Ark reports: Italians use about 20 billion bags a year -- more than 330 per person -- or about one-fifth of the total used in Europe, according to Italian environmentalist lobby Legambiente. Starting on Saturday, retailers are banned from providing shoppers polyethylene bags. They can use bags made of such material as biodegradable plastic, cloth or paper.For more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12097605 and http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/plastic-bags-outlawed-in-italy-from-january-1-2173415.html

 

2010

Sita to turn plastic into diesel to power vehicles
"Old carrier bags, yoghurt pots and TV dinner packaging will soon be making enough fuel to power 5,000 British white vans – in Europe's first plastic-to-diesel plant..." Daily Telegraph, 8/11/10. Our comment: Better than landfill, no doubt - is this good news?

Malasia takes a lead on banning plastic bags, November 2010 - why don't we follow? "Come Jan 1, plastic bags will be practically banned state-wide. The move – an extension of the current “No Plastic Bag Day” in shopping centres and hypermarkets on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – means that no plastic bags can be used every day by almost all business sectors. The ruling will cover all hypermarkets, supermarkets, departmental stores, pharmacies, fast food restaurants, nasi kandar outlets, convenience stores including petrol kiosks and chain stores..."

Mayor of London's waste strategy encourages plastic recycling "...the Mayor's draft waste strategy includes giving councils incentives to use re-cycling methods with lower greenhouse gas emissions, rather than basing them on weight. In practice, this will encourage an increase in plastics and metal recycling as well as food and garden waste composting. City Hall estimates the plans could save 1.6 million tonnes of carbon a year, including energy saved from lower manufacturing levels. This is the equivalent of £90 million off the capital's £4.4 billion electricity bill and £24 million off the £2.5 billion gas bill. By 2015, the Mayor wants the capital to be recycling at least 45 per cent of its municipal waste rising to 60 per cent by 2031, sending no municipal waste to landfill by 2025." Evening Standard, 20/10/10

Progress at Tesco: "Leading the way in carrier bag alternatives... We’re all guilty of forgetting to take our reusable bags shopping. But at Tesco, we’ve come up with a variety of ways to encourage you to use fewer carrier bags...
...Bag-free checkouts: We’ve removed carrier bags from displays at tills, placing them out of view beneath the checkout. Carrier bags are only offered if you need them. By removing the bags from view, we hope to encourage you to rethink your habits when shopping and be less reliant on carrier bags."

Italy bans the plastic water bottle along heritage coastline, Telegraph (21 Sep 2010)
Hikers and tourists visiting one of Italy's most scenic stretches of coastline have been banned from carrying plastic bottles of water amid fears that the area is being "buried" in rubbish.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England publishes research on the economic, social and environmental advantages of a UK-wide deposit refund scheme, September 2010
A small deposit would be placed on glass, aluminium and plastic drinks containers to encourage people to return them for recycling, rather than throwing them away as litter or in a bin. You can read a summary of the research and find out more about the positive difference the scheme could make to our environment on the CPRE website.

Dramatic fall in number of plastic bags given out by supermarkets, Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor, The Independent, 26/8/10
"The number of "single-use" plastic bags given to customers by leading UK supermarkets has fallen for the fourth year in a row...The total has dropped from 10.6 billion in 2006 to 6.1 billion in the year to May, a reduction of 43 per cent, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said." But the Indy Business page that day is more sceptical, and a leader calls for a ban. See Leading article: Ban the bags and James Moore: Bags are a problem, whatever the BRC says.

 

Holland and Barrett becomes the first major high street chain to ban plastic bags (Telegraph, Jan 2010) - lets hope others follow soon!Boris Johnson sets an Olympic goal for London to be Britain’s first plastic bag-free city 
London could become Britain’s first plastic-bag-free city in time for the Olympics in 2012, under plans published today by Boris Johnson to reduce litter and landfill waste. Shoppers will be given greater incentives to bring their own reusable bags, and supermarkets may be encouraged to charge for single-use bags issued at the checkout... Plastic bag campaigner honoured
Rebecca Hosking, well-known for turning her home town Modbury, in Devon, into the first plastic-bag-free town in the UK, was awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours. Well deserved and very good news, though it does raise the question: If the Government values her initiative in Modbury so much, why doesn't it do more to make the whole UK plastic-bag-free?
 
2009
 
Wales to introduce compulsory charge for plastic bags, November 2009
In 2011, Wales will become the first nation in the UK to introduce charging for one-trip carrier bags to curb their use. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/8339049.stm.
Greener Kingston says:"If Wales can do it, why not the whole UK?"Ireland to increase tax on plastic bags, Sept 24, 2009
"Ireland has revealed plans to double the tax on plastic bags as a way of protecting the country's environment…The Irish Department of the Environment said the charge would be doubled to ensure a "sufficient deterrent" to shoppers who arrived at checkouts with no bags of their own… The success of the tax has been noted around the world, with countries and communities from Jersey to India considering following the Irish example."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/24/ireland-tax-plastic-bags

UK consumers will pay more for green...Greenwise, Sept 2009
"The vast majority (80 per cent) see the use of reusable plastic bags as a crucial environmental issue, for example. The fact that this came out as the survey's top environmental priority is interesting – perhaps reflecting the fact that this is something consumers can do to help the environment at little or no cost to themselves and also, possibly, the success of efforts by the Government and leading supermarkets to reduce the use of plastic bags..."

 

A plastic bag anthem?
The brilliant Tim Minchin sings about canvas bags here: "Take your canvas bags when you go to the supermarket..."

The Welsh want to ban plastic bags, July 2009
"Banning plastic bags is the clear winner with people asked to vote on policies they would like taken up by the Welsh Assembly Government."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/8123521.stm

July 2009 - 346 million down, only 372 million to go! 
Leading supermarkets have narrowly missed a Government target to reduce carrier bag use by 50%. Last year, seven supermarket chains signed up to a voluntary scheme aimed at reducing the number of bags given out by 50%. In May 2006, 718 million bags were being given out, and figures released on July 17 show that by May 2009 the number had almost halved to 372 million, a reduction of 48%, but missing the target by 2%.
Towards a Plastic-Bag-Free Kingston comment: "This is both good news and bad news. It's good that there are fewer plastic bags going into the system, but it still leaves an enormous 372 million - and that's just from these 7 supermarket chains!  And it may mean that the promised Government ban or levy on plastic bags will be quietly dropped?

China reports huge drop in plastic bag use, June 2009
Welsh Assembly opens consultation on charging for single use carrier bags, June 2009
The Welsh Assembly says:
”A charge would be introduced through regulations made under the Climate Change Act 2008. The Welsh Assembly Government has long considered single use carrier bags a problem and a waste of resources. Our proposals seek to change public behaviour and lead to an improvement in Wales’ environment in a number of ways:The use of plastic bags in China has dropped 66 percent since the Chinese parliament banned thin, single-use bags last year.

United Nations Environment Programme Head Calls for World-Wide Ban on Pointless Thin Film Plastic Bags , June, 2009
‘Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Marine litter is symptomatic of a wider malaise: namely the wasteful use and persistent poor management of natural resources. The plastic bags, bottles and other debris piling up in the oceans and seas could be dramatically reduced by improved waste reduction, waste management and recycling initiatives. "Some of the litter, like thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased-out rapidly everywhere-there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere. 
  • helping reduce highly visible plastic bag litter;
  • substantially reducing the amount of single use carrier bags;
  • lessening the impact on the environment from single use carrier bags;
  • encouraging more sustainable behaviour which will help towards combating climate change by increasing environmental awareness.”
Britain's leading supermarkets and high street shops have cut the number of plastic bags being given to customers by 3.5 billion a year, according to waste reduction agency, WRAP. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7913645.stm and http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/billions-fewer-plastic-bags-handed-out-1632392.html"Shoppers cotton on to bags”: Nottingham shoppers have been swapping their plastic carrier bags for a cotton alternative. Our comment: "If Nottingham traders and shoppers can do it, so can Kingston. In fact, we have noticed more shoppers carrying their own bags and more traders becoming aware of the costs, both financial and environmental. It's good too that the big supermarkets are discouraging plastic bags - but we still think they could do better!"  See the news item at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7886802.stm

2008
 
Sainsbury’s now hides bags under the counter, has prominent signs explaining the new policy, and also offers a text service to remind customers to bring their own bags.  W H Smiths in Kingston also appears now to have a policy of asking customers if they want their own bags, and some very good assistants who can explain why.

Best of all, in December 2008 several large supermarket chains announce substantial cuts to their  plastic and paper bag usage. Campaigners and customer demand can make a difference, says Towards a Plastic-Bag-Free Kingston. Perhaps this was the result of the the news on 26 November that London Councils withdrew the London Shopping Bag Bill from parliament after the government amended the Climate Change Bill  to enable a charge on shopping bags should retailers fail to make a voluntary and significant cut in the number of bags they give out. 

Sainsbury encouraging re-use of bags
 "From Wednesday 1 October we’ll be removing our free bags from the checkouts to encourage bag re-use.  Customers who still require carrier bags will now need to ask ...In June we trialled this idea in some of our stores and the comments from our customers and colleagues was very positive.  From this trial we saw a reduction in the number of free plastic bags we give away, as customers used their own or purchased our ‘Bag for life’ instead. This will help in meeting our pledge to halve the number of disposable plastic bags we giveaway for free by April 2009.  The great news is that we’re already over half way to achieving our target."

W H Smith to scrap plastic bags
Daily Mirror reports on moves towards scrapping free plastic bags, 19/8/08. See
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2008/08/19/wh-smith-to-scrap-plastic-bags-115875-20703441/

Tesco takes bags off the checkout
See packagingnews.co.uk, 13/8/08
Tesco is requiring customers at its larger stores to ask checkout operators for single-use plastic carrier bags in a bid to reduce usage.
http://www.packagingnews.co.uk/environment/news/839115/Tesco-takes-bags-off-checkout/

There's more than one way of getting cash from plastic
The Scotsman, 30 July 2008
"BYOB once commonly featured on party invitations indicating to those that were planning to attend that they should bring their own bottle. It could now be equally construed in the retail trade but with reference to bags rather than glass containers.Next week, style store TK Maxx will become the latest high street retailer to improve its green credentials by making its customers pay for plastic bags in a bid to reduce waste and cut the one billion free plastic bags given away in Scotland every year, 80 per cent of which are handed out by supermarkets... The demise of the plastic bag is inevitable.” 
Read the full story at http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/There39s-more-than-one-way.4338332.jp

Stores given until spring to cut plastic bags by 70 per cent, Daily Mail, 29th July 2008
"Supermarkets have been told they must slash the number of plastic carrier bags they give to customers by 70 per cent by next spring. The Government has warned stores that a failure to do so voluntarily will trigger a change in the law to put an end to the distribution of free throwaway bags, dubbed 'plastic poison'".... Read the whole story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1039424/Stores-given-spring-cut-plastic-bags-70-cent.html

Will new London mayor Boris Johnson ban bags?
He said he would!

BBC R4, Costing the Earth, 29/5/08: "All Wrapped Up and Nowhere to Go: Plastic bags and packaging are anathema to the environmentalist. Yet the issue is more complex. How much packaging does our food need?" Interesting discussion!
 
National Trust introduces 5p charge, 1 May 2008
The National Trust introduces a 5p charge on plastic bags in its shops and plant centres.
http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/plastic+bag+fee+at+national+trust/2113252?intcmp=rss_news_itnnews   Leeds, Bradford and Hebden Bridge in the news
BBC News short video-clip about campaign to ban the plastic carrier bag in Leeds and Bradford, and Hebden Bridge, which has gone plastic-bag-free.

Daily Mail launches campaign on plastic bags, February 2008
For coverage of the plastic bag issue in the Daily Mail, with useful facts, stats, pics,  links and petition, see:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=519870&in_page_id=1770
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=519433&in_page_id=1770http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=521529&in_page_id=1770&ct=5

"Gordon Brown gives supermarkets one year to start charging for plastic bags ... or else" (Daily Mail, 29/2/08)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=522765&in_page_id=1770

"Why Sarah and I know this is right: Prime Minister Gordon Brown backs the Daily Mail's Banish the Bags campaign" (Daily Mail, 29/2/08) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=522766&in_page_id=1770

China clamps down on plastic bag use, January 2008
China is to ban the use of some plastic bags and to force consumers to pay for others in its latest move to save on resources and ease the pressures on its environment. When will we follow suit?
Read the full story in Guardian Unlimited, Tuesday January 8, 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/china/story/0,,2237307,00.html2007On 6 November 2007, Marks & Spencer announced that there would be a trial 5p charge for carrier bags in 33 of its stores in the south-west of England from Sunday 13 January. For three weeks customers in Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Devon and Cornwall will receive a free M&S Bag for Life with each food transaction. This trial follows a 16-week period of charging 5p per bag in its Northern Ireland stores, which led to a 66% reduction in the number of carriers used. If the West country Trial is successful,M&S will introduce the charge throughout the country.
Our comment: "Where M&S leads other retailers may well follow, so we welcome this move. But we wonder if 5p is enough to deter shoppers and encourage them to use their own bags in an affluent place like Kingston? 50p might be more of a deterrent!" See http://www.marksandspencer.com/gp/node/n/66823031?ie=UTF8&mnSBrand=core

A plastic-bag-free High Wycombe town centre came a step closer in November 2007 when a petition with over 1800 signatures called for their ban in a new shopping centre due to open next spring. 
Our comment: "We'd be so proud if Kingston became the first large shopping centre to ban plastic and other throw-away shopping bags, but it looks increasingly as if other towns are going to be much quicker to respond to this environmental problem and to get the kudos that goes with being first and being green. Maybe Kingston could be first in London, rather than waiting for the inevitable ban?"

61% approve of charging for bags,  The Independent, 17/11/07
Two surveys following the London Council consultation results in November 2007 found wide support for a ban on bags or for charging for them. A British Market Research Bureau found that  61% approved of charging for bags and only 20% thought it a bad idea. Even more encouragingly, a a AC Neilson survery fourn that 84%  would not switch to a rival supermarket if their usual store stopped giving away free bags.
Our comment: "Consumers are more environmentally aware than many retailers realise. It's good news that shoppers do not choose stores for their free carrier bags, and we very much hope that Kingston retailers will take note."

London’s council leaders agree to go ahead with a Bill that will seek to ban the distribution of free, throw-away shopping bags in the capital, The Independent, 17/11/07 
The decision follows a London-wide consultation organised by London Councils on its proposals to introduce either a levy or a ban on throw-away shopping bags in the capital. Over 90% of people responding to the consultation called for action on shopping bags; nearly 60% felt strongly enough to call for an outright ban.
Our comment: "We welcome the results of this consultation and look forward to a complete ban on plastic bags. However we do wonder how long it will take to implement, and would love to see Kingston retailers taking steps to get ahead of the ban - if we could save a year or two's worth of throw-away bags from ending up as litter or land-fill in Kingston that would be worth doing."Pre-2007 (when we started)Bangladesh bans bags in 2002
In Bangladesh plastic bags have been banned completely since early 2002. They were found to have been the main cause of the 1988 and 1998 floods that submerged two-thirds of the country because discarded bags were choking the drainage system. Bombay bans bags, 2000
Bombay stepped up its campaign against plastic bags in 2001, with police raids on factories and shops manufacturing or handling them. The council banned the bags in 2000 to stop them littering the streets and clogging up the city's sewerage system. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1329600.stm    

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