The Department for Environment & Rural Affairs (Defra) will keep plans to exempt biodegradable plastic bags from the 5p bag charge under review ahead of further research into the impacts of biodegradable plastics.
In its report ‘Review of standards for biodegradable plastic carrier bags' Defra concluded that further work would need to be done to establish quality standards for biodegradable plastics if they were to be exempt from the charge.
The 5p charge came into effect in England in October, and must be levied by large retailers on all plastic bags handed out in-store.
The report found that there are a number of standards for plastic bag biodegradability. It said: “We will need to conduct further work before any of these could be used to exempt certain types of carrier bags on grounds of biodegradability.
“By the end of May 2016 retailers are required to report the number of bags that have been supplied, and the uses to which the proceeds of the charge have been put, after reasonable costs are deducted. The Government will use that opportunity to consider the early impacts of the charge. “The government will continue to consider the technical specification for a genuinely biodegradable bag, and will at that point further report on how an exemption for such a biodegradable bag can be implemented.
Ministers had intended that the biodegradable plastic bags would be exempt from the charge from the start, but this was put on hold after the department concluded that standards for the material would need to be agreed to establish how an exemption would work.
In its summary of the report, Defra concluded: “We will need to conduct further work before any of these could be used to exempt certain types of carrier bags on grounds of biodegradability.”
Over the next three years obligated producers of plastic packaging will have to recycle 47%, 52% and 57% respectively of the plastic packaging which they place on the market in the UK.