The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has today (30 September) criticised Welsh Government actions to levy a charge on plastic bags in supermarkets.

A spokesperson for the BRC has expressed concerns over the Welsh Government legislation introducing a 5p charge for bags from tomorrow.

“Essentially we are still opposed to compulsory bag charging because we think its important that you engage customers on the environmental agenda rather than alienate them with compulsory charging,” the spokesperson said.

He added that although the BRC are against the legislation, it believes the Welsh government minimises customer confusion by making sure customers understand that retailers are not introducing the charge because they want to but because they are being “forced” to.

“Wales is leading the way in the UK by introducing a charge for single use carrier bags. Our plans have been welcomed by people across Wales, and indeed the UK, as a positive way of addressing the blight of bags on our landscape and a waste of resources,” First Minister Carwyn Jones said.

A number of retailers have introduced various schemes to encourage customers to reduce bag usage, including upgrading the quality of bags and giving away free bags for life.

Morrisons said it has designed a new range of reusable bags which launch in Wales this week in order to support the new initiative and help its customers. The money made from the bags will go to Save the Children charity.

“We’ve ensured that customers have been given plenty of notice, provided bag giveaways to ease the transition and have decided to donate all the proceeds of the sale to our Charity Partner Save the Children,” a spokesperson for Morrisons said.

Sainsbury‘s has launched a bag for life which the retailer claims to be “sturdier” than previous bags for life. 

Sainsbury’s managing director for Wales and West of England, Dean Clegg said: “By providing these new bags, we make it easier for customers to get into the habit of re-using and it will cost them the same as if they were paying for a single-use bag.”

Waitrose and Asda aims to reduce bag usage by giving away free bags for life.

The spokesperson for the BRC continued to add that retailers should be left free to use methods that they find best work with customers to reduce bag usage. He said that objectives of the levy is to either minimise bag usage or raise money for good causes but “not going to full achieve both of those”.

He added that there is “no indication the charge will come into England although Scottish government is proposing it and an Northern Irish executive is looking at it”.