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Wilson backs supermarkets rather than publicly backed solution to plastic bags

18 December, 2008

Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson Daithí McKay has said that the Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has backed the supermarkets rather than the general public on the matter of tackling the problem of plastic bags. Mr McKay was speaking after a number of large supermarkets pledged to halve the number of carrier bags given to shoppers by spring 2009, and he said that there was no legal commitment on them to meet targets which in themselves do not go far enough.

Mr McKay said

"The 'pledge' agreed by supermarkets does not nearly go far enough to address the problem of plastic bags here, it is the bare minimum of what could be done to tackle this issue. Given that this 'pledge' will not be reviewed until 2010 demonstrates that this is nothing more than an exercise in 'buying time' for the big supermarkets who have had more than sufficient time to address the issue.

"Last month the Assembly backed a Sinn Féin motion calling for a levy on plastic bags as the Assembly recognizes that plastic bags and the excess level of packaging that families go through is already costing them dearly. Studies carried out last year established that excess packaging costs the average family here £470 per year, which makes a small levy of a few pence seem very minute in comparison.

"The fact of the matter is that the general public support a levy on plastic bags and it has been welcomed wherever it has been introduced. In the south it has been a great success story and the fact that plastic bag litter has fallen by over 95% proves that.

"Once again the Environment Minister has failed to show any leadership and whereas this new agreement with the supermarkets is big on aspiration it lacks any legal commitment or guarantees. The Assembly wants to introduce a plastic bag levy, the public wants to introduce a plastic bag levy, and once again the Minister has fluffed an opportunity to consider real solutions to environmental problems." ENDS

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