Letter to David Heath MP re single-use carrier bags

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David Heath MP

Somerton & Frome

House of Commons

London SW1A 0AA


Dear Mr Heath


I am writing to ask for your support on the important issue of single-use carrier bags by joining other MPs in signing Early Day Motion 534 which calls on the government to introduce a charge for single-use plastic carrier bags in England.

In 2011, UK retailers issued eight billion single use plastic carrier bags, a 5.4 per cent rise on the previous year according to figures published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). I am concerned that most of the net growth occurred in England, the only home nation dragging its heel on this issue.

Single-use plastic bags are a wasteful use of limited fossil fuel resources. One ton of plastic bags uses 11 barrels of crude oil.

On average, a plastic carrier bag remains in use for 10 minutes then takes up to 1,000 years to degrade. It's insane.

An estimated 200 million bags end up as litter in our streets, parks, hedgerows, even on our village cricket pitches. Much of this litter eventually ends up in the sea where it contaminates wildlife.

The Marine Conservation Society says plastic pollution in our oceans kills an estimated 100,000 seabirds, whales, seals and turtles every year.

More alarming perhaps is the potential threat to our diets. Plastic can enter the food chain as fish mistake small fragments for plankton.

Studies have also raised health concerns about the use of additives in plastic such as pthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA), especially their toxicity to infants and young children.   

In 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron said:  'Progress overall went backwards last year [2010], and that is unacceptable. Retailers need to do better. I want to see significant falls again. I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don’t I will be asking them to explain why not.'

In October 2011, Wales introduced a 5p carrier bag charge. Welsh retailers have since reported a drop in bag usage of more than 70 per cent.

The Republic of Ireland's introduction of a 9p charge for plastic bags in March 2002 saw carrier bag use fall by 90 per cent. Scotland and Northern Ireland are preparing to follow suit.

Yet in England, the introduction of WRAP's voluntary plastic bag reduction scheme in 2006 has stalled with bag use back on the rise. Of the major supermarket food retailers, only Marks & Spencer has introduced a bag charge. 

Retailers accept that a charge is the only way to change consumer behaviour. A spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium said 'It's no surprise the use of a bag charge in Wales has reduced the number of bags taken by consumers there. If other governments see reducing the use of carrier bags as a priority, they will have to take a lead and go beyond voluntary measures.’

Please support the Break the Bag Habit campaign run by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage and present my concerns to Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson MP.

In summary, I urge you to sign the early day motion to introduce a single-use plastic carrier bag charge in England.


Yours sincerely

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