Centres resist plastic bag charge

Garden centres are resisting a nationwide move towards charging for plastic bags.

The demand for plastic bags in National Trust shops has fallen 95 per cent since May, following the introduction of a 5p charge for all plastic carrier bags in National Trust shops. But garden centres have not followed suit and are relying on selling jute "bags for life" to avoid giving out environmentally damaging plastic bags.

Worcestershire centre Webbs uses biodegradable plastic and is "doing very well" with its new range of four seasonal Webbs Big Purple jute bags, says chief executive Boyd Douglas-Davies.

"Several problems spring to mind if you stop automatically offering bags. Security is one issue - a lot of our customers will make a purchase and then go to the restaurant or one of the other operators within the centre. If they then walk out with goods that are not in a bag how will we know that they have actually paid?" said Boyd-Davies.

"We don't have a tagging system at the doors. Not everything we sell is 'clean' so will customers be happy paying for a bag when they may perceive it as a necessary part of the transaction? Having said all that, I'm sure that it will come to garden centres just as soon as we can address some of the main issues."

HTA retail committee chair Caroline Owen said: "I don't know of any centres charging for plastic bags. I think they are taking on board bags for life instead. We're looking into it and Webbs has been very successful. There is a consumer move away from taking plastic bags and centres are offering alternatives. But some people still want plastic bags and we have to provide them."

A GCA representative said she had not heard of any centres charging for plastic bags.

Out of the 220 National Trust shops, around 100 sell plants. The trust is now using recycled paper bags and non-toxic degradable plastic bags.

In March B&Q banned free carrier bags at its 320 stores. The chain hands out 80 million bags a year but is keen to "reduce environmental pollution".

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew signed up to a 50-retailer London scheme in July, meaning only biodegradable cornstarch and cotton bags are used. Tesco Extra introduced a bag-on-request scheme this August. M&S, Aldi, Lidl and Netto charge for bags.


- Bags can take 1,000 years to rot in landfill

- 100,000 tonnes of plastic bags go to landfill each year

- British shops hand out 13 billion bags a year

- The National Trust has saved 325,000 bags from landfill since 1 May

- In the past 18 months the National Trust has sold 164,000 jute bags.

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