Council continues fight for plastic bag-free Oxford

6:10pm Thursday 28th February 2013

By Freddie Whittaker

OXFORD City Council is still attempting to rid itself of plastic carrier bags – almost six years after trying to become the first city to do so.

The council has officially called on Parliament to impose a plastic bags levy on shops after Lib Dem councillor Graham Jones tabled a motion to the full council on Monday. The motion was unanimously approved.

Dr Jones said he wanted to see a decline in the number of bags issued, and a levy was answer.

He said: “It’s proved that way in all the other countries in the British Isles, it’s proved that way in other member states of the European Union.

“Even countries like Somalia are ahead of us on this. We’re way behind and we really need to look at it.”

He said that until the Ardley energy-from-waste facility near Bicester opens in 2015, Oxfordshire would still be sending large amounts of waste to landfill, a large proportion of which would be plastic bags.

He said: “If a levy was brought in during the next Parliamentary session, Oxfordshire could save a year’s landfill charge and do the equivalent of taking 160 cars off the road.

“Oxfordshire citizens get through 30 million bags a year – around 200 per person.”

In June 2007, then council leader John Goddard said he was writing to supermarkets, shops and stores in Oxford asking them to ditch plastic bags and cut packaging.

He had previously discussed trying to pass a bylaw banning plastic bags but was told by the council’s legal experts this would not work.

Matt Chapman, assistant manager of the Truck Store record shop in Cowley Road, said he didn’t think a levy was needed on bags given out by small independent shop.

He said: “We always offer a carrier bag, but a lot of people choose not to have one. We get ours made for us from an independent company, and they’re the right size for our specific products.”

He said he thought supermarkets should deal with the cost of the levy by absorbing it and putting up prices across their ranges.

He said: “I’m sure most people would rather pay an extra 1p for a can of beans than pay the 5p when they get to the till.”

The motion passed said that the council “noted with dismay that last year eight billion ‘thin-gauge’ plastic bags were issued in the UK, an increase of more than five per cent over 2010”.

It also referred to the fact a levy had already been brought in by the Republic of Ireland and in Wales, where the number of bags issued had dropped by 90 per cent.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman Nisar Hussain said: “We want to work with retailers to help them lift their game to cut the number of bags they hand out.

“We are monitoring the results of the charging scheme in Wales and the outcome of Scottish consultation on a charge so that we can make a fully informed decision.”

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