U.K. packaging industry, lawmakers concerned over possibility that EC might tax, ban plastic bags; U.K.'s B Smith Packaging to survive by shifting to alternatives, which aren't better for economy, executive says

LOS ANGELES , October 13, 2011 () – With the prospect that the European Commission will consider taxing or banning single-use plastic bags this fall, some of Europe’s packaging producers and lawmakers are skeptical about any legislation being effective and concerned about the possible impacts, the Manchester Evening News reported on Oct. 13.

B Smith Packaging Ltd. will survive even if the bags are banned, by switching to alternative packaging materials, according to Andy Smith, the Worcester, England-based company’s managing director.

Paper bags, which account for up to 40% of B Smith’s carrier sales, produce 70% more air pollution and 50% more water pollution and require four times the truck miles to transport them, he said.

Plastic bags require 25% of the energy needed to make paper bags and 95% of B Smith’s printed plastic bags contain an additive that causes the film to dissolve in a landfill, usually within 12 to 24 months, Smith said, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Any ban on the bags would add to the country’s inflationary pressures as consumer costs would rise with alternative packaging. Paper bags are three times more expensive than plastic, Smith said.

Declining demand for plastic bags has led to the company’s laying off 4 of its 20 workers in Hale, he said.

However, data indicates that demand for single-use carrier bags in the U.K. rose by 5% last year, after falling by 40% between 2006 and 2010, to 6.8 billion bags a year. British Prime Minister David Cameron has threatened to introduce legislation if major store group do not slash those numbers, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Laws do not necessarily work, though, according to Shane Brennan, director of public affairs for the Association of Convenience Stores, which campaigned against a Wales law that imposes fees on plastic bags.

An outright ban is opposed by the association, which says such measures could be most hurtful to independent retailers. Shoppers will wait to go to the supermarket if there are no bags at convenience stores, which rely on impulse sales, Brennan said.

Local retailers should be “treated differently” to big supermarkets, according to Chris Davies, a North west member of parliament who likened any European Union legislation on the matter to “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” the Manchester Evening News reported.

The primary source of this article is the Manchester Evening News, Chadderton, England, on Oct. 13, 2011.

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