In yesterday’s Budget announcement, Chancellor Alastair Darling said laws would be introduced from next year to force retailers to charge customers for bags if they were not making enough progress voluntarily.
However, many retailers have already cut plastic bag use and say legislation is unnecessary.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers have already committed to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags by a quarter by the end of this year. Huge progress has been made without any need for legislation.
“Customers took a billion fewer bags in the last 12 months and retailers are over half way to achieving the target on cutting the use of new plastic. This shows bans or taxes are not the only way.”
The Co-op says its initiatives have already reduced the number of plastic bags it gives out by 38 per cent and is currently trialling a compostable carrier bag, but said it would work with the government on any changes.
“We believe that working with the communities in this way is the best approach and will co-operate with the government on the development of any initiatives to reduce the usage of plastic carrier bags,” a spokesman said.
The Association of Convenience Stores said small stores had “no fears” about introducing a levy on carrier bags.
Chief executive James Lowman said: “We have fully supported the government’s targets to reduce the impact of carrier bags and there are countless excellent initiatives by independent retailers aimed at reducing bag use. A levy on carrier bags would, if introduced sensitively, hold no fears for convenience stores. We will continue to promote voluntary measures in this area and to work with government on the detail of a levy if they decide this is the right way forward.”