Is the UK bag tax leading to increased plastics consumption?

The chief executive of UK plastics distributor National Flexible has applauded a column by a political editor in The Sunday Times newspaper for exposing the hypocrisy at the heart of the government’s ‘War on Plastic’.

Journalist Dominic Lawson highlighted how the government’s plastics bag tax has failed to reduce the use of plastics and that alternative materials such as paper bags add to Global Warming. He quoted environment secretary Michael Gove, who acclaimed the news in 2017-18 that the big seven UK retailers reduced their sales of ‘single-use’ plastics bags from 1.3 billion to 1bn, and called Britain “a global leader in protecting our seas from plastics”.

Lawson pointed out that British supermarkets are also selling more than a billion ‘bags for life’ annually, which contain more than twice as much plastics.

Twigg responded in a press statement by saying: “They [the government] know, as do the major retailers, that any other material to replace plastics bags, be it paper or cotton, simply adds to carbon emissions thus global warming.

“I too have a copy of the 2011 Environmental Agency Report (very sad), which emphasises that in addition to their multi-use up to 70 per cent in some areas, all these ‘single-use’ plastics bags were and are 100 per cent recyclable.

“Blue Planet II told us that Coral Reefs are 1 per cent of the ocean floor but that they support 20 per cent of all aquatic life. Sir David Attenborough then intoned 25-30 per cent of these reefs are either dead or dying due to Global Warming. What he didn’t say was that as a consequence, replacing plastics (particularly in packaging) by paper, board, glass or tin, not only adds to the death of the Coral Reefs due to carbon emissions, but also uses more of the Earth’s natural resources.”

In its 2011 report, the Environment Agency concluded that a paper bag would have to be used three times before it could be regarded as more environmentally correct than a lightweight plastics bag used only once.