Retailers have called on the Welsh government to reconsider a plan to impose an outright ban on single-use plastic bags, after claims it won’t change consumer behaviour.
Last month, Welsh climate change minister Julie James revealed intentions to add plastic bags and wet-wipes that contain plastics to a wider ban, which was due to come into force last year, but has since been delayed.
However, The Fed’s Welsh district president, Vince Malone, told betterRetailing the move would not automatically lead to the long-term behaviour change needed to cut usage.
“It’s a very blunt instrument,” he said. “If you ban plastic bags outright, people will trade up to bags-for-life and these become the new disposables.”
Malone, who owns Premier Tenby Stores, already charges 10p for a plastic bag – 5p more than the minimum statutory amount in Wales – and 20p for a bag-for-life. He stressed that while he believed people wanted to do better and were environmentally conscious, this didn’t always result in them remembering to bring their own bag.
“I am in a popular holiday area, so people often want convenience,” he said. “They aren’t in the habits they are in at home, and they forget. However, if the cost of bags went up to £1 people might think twice because that could add as much as £4 to a weekly shop.”
Malone added that previously he has trialled cardboard boxes for home delivery items, but that many customers asked for bags.
Trudy Davies, of Woosnam & Davies News, in Llanidloes, said she also charges 10p per bag, and has generated £4,000 annually by doing so.
“If bags were banned outright, my community charities wouldn’t get that money, and while the number of people asking for bags has decreased, I do keep them in stock,” she said.
“I offer paper carriers, but these aren’t always practical, especially if it’s raining.” Davies reinforced fears the move by the government could be a step too far.
“You have to ask, where would it end?” she said. “In my bakery, I sell bread in plastic bags, and I can’t see an alternative.” Scotland and England doubled the charge of single-use plastic bags from 5p to 10p in 2021. Wales did not change its law, although many retailers have increased the price voluntarily.
No part of the UK has banned plastic bags outright, although a ban on wet-wipes is being considered in England.
A ban on throwaway plastic and polystyrene utensils came into force in Scotland on 1 June.