MP supports plastic bags campaign

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LEWES MP Norman Baker is backing the campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags.

He has written to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman to urge greater Government action to curb the “excessive” use by retailers and to suggest that she might convene a meeting of chief executives from the supermarkets to help achieve this.

And he is also taking the matter up with the Chief Executive of WH Smith, which he has labelled as one of the worst offenders.

The action follows a meeting Mr Baker held with a group of concerned constituents at his Friday surgery. He has campaigned for years on the subject, most notably through his ground-breaking report “How Green Is Your Supermarket?” which revealed that the major supermarkets alone were using 18 billion plastic bags a year.

He has suggested a deposit scheme, whereby a fee was charged for a bag but this could be reclaimed subsequently from the retailer, thereby returning the problem to its source.

Mr Baker said: “Some retailers, like Waitrose, have made a real effort to discourage plastic bags, but others seem to have moved in the opposite direction. In particular, I am appalled that, whenever I buy something from WH Smith in Lewes, I am invariably asked if I want a plastic bag, even if I am simply buying a thin magazine.

“The counter staff tell me they are under orders to offer bags in this way, so I am taking the matter up with WH Smith management at the highest level. As things stand, they must be in the running for a Least Green Retailer Award.”

A spokesperson for WH Smith said: “WH Smith is committed to responsibly managing its environmental impact. We are surprised by the comments from Mr Baker, as we continue to work hard to reduce the number of plastic carrier bags we hand out.

“Our store staff ask customers whether they need a bag, with the intention of raising customer awareness of the importance of carrier bag reduction by prompting them to question whether they really need an additional bag for their purchase.”

There had been a 53 per cent reduction in the number of plastic carrier bags handed out in its outlets over the last five years.