Defra forced to backtrack on bag charge data

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has re-submitted evidence to an MPs inquiry on its proposed plastic bag charge, after data given by minister Dan Rogerson was found to be flawed.

Giving oral evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee in December, Mr Rogerson said that the proposals to implement a 5p charge for single use carriers could reduce bag usage to the extent that around 5 to 8 million fewer tonnes of CO2 would be released into the atmosphere each year.
Mr Rogerson added that this would be equivalent to taking 1.7 to 2.7 million cars off the road permanently.
However, the Department has revised the figures after it was asked to provide further information about its carbon emissions analysis to the Committee.
Defra now claims that the policy would in fact reduce CO2 emissions by around 97,000 to 130,000 tonnes – equivalent to taking 32,000 to 43,000 cars off the road.
In its letter to the Committee to rectify the error, the Department stated that it had not used the carbon reduction argument as its main basis for bringing about the policy, adding that its priority for introducing a charge would be the reduction in litter.
Defra stated: “The Government has not been using a carbon reduction argument as the main basis for the policy to reduce the distribution of single-use plastic carrier bags and increase the number of bags being reused by consumers. The main benefits of this policy are in terms of a reduction in litter on land and at sea. In addition this will also reduce the environmental, resource and economic cost of their production, storage and transport.
“Until this point in the process, therefore, we had not carried out a thorough review of the relevant carbon data. When we did so an error came to light in an estimate of the benefits carried out in 2012; this over-estimated the carbon impact significantly due to how the original 2006 Environment Agency figures were being used.”
Plans to introduce a 5p levy on single-use plastic bags were announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in September, with the government also suggesting that it will incentivise the use of biodegradable plastic bags by exempting them.