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Carrier bag 'tax' plan for rubbish-hit area

By Ian Herbert, North of England Correspondent, The Independent.

18 December 2002

The council that introduced Britain's first congestion charge is to ask local consumers to take part in a trial to pay a tax on every plastic carrier bag.

After the success of the roads scheme, which reduced traffic by 80 per cent in a month, Durham County Council wants to imitate the Republic of Ireland's 10p levy on carrier bags, which cut use there by 90 per cent over four months. The council said yesterday that it wanted to pilot a similar scheme if the public supported the idea.

People in the county throw away 65 million plastic bags a year, and its streets and countryside are littered with them Ð factors which were also the spur for Ireland's action.

The North-east's recycling record is the worst in Britain, with just 4.1 per cent of its waste recycled, compared with 16.4 per cent in the South-east.

Joe Armstrong, chairman of the council's sustainability group, reminded residents yesterday of the "discarded plastic carrier bags stuck in trees, hedges, railings, fences, rivers and streams". The solution "may not be to everyone's liking initially" but was essential, he said.

Durham's move follows the assertion last month by the Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, that charging people according to the amount of rubbish they generate is fair.

Mr Meacher, who considers plastic bags a particularly difficult problem, said: "Some local authorities have expressed an interest in this and we are saying to them: if you want to pursue this, fine. This is a green tax and the aim is not to raise money, it is to change behaviour."

Durham will need an extension of its tax-raising powers if its scheme is to become compulsory.

This article was kindly provided by ScoWaste, a mailing list run by SRMS for RAGS and FoE Scotland. It originally appeared in The Independent.


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