Anger as plastic bag ban is thrown out

ANTI-plastic bag crusaders in Crouch End have slammed Haringey Council for not backing radical plans to cut waste

Charlotte Newton

ANTI-plastic bag crusaders in Crouch End have slammed Haringey Council for not backing radical plans to cut waste.

Councillors have rejected the Lib Dems' proposal to ban throwaway plastic bags by 2010, sparking fury from environmentalists.

It is reckoned that 1.6 billion plastic bags were handed out to shoppers in London last year and only one in every 200 was re-used. Thrown away, they take between 400 and 1,000 years to decompose.

Jo Foster from the Sustainable Haringey Food Working Group was outraged by the decision. She said: "If Haringey wants to become the greenest borough it has to take the lead on recycling issues.

"Independent traders in Crouch End have worked hard to try to encourage shoppers to use re-usable bags, whereas some supermarkets don't even ask if you want one - they just throw plastic bags at you. The council should take the initiative on this."

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A pilot bag ban by Crouch End traders has saved half a million plastic bags in six months.

Andrew Thornton, of Thornton's Budgens and Chris Freeman of Dunns bakery in the Broadway, Crouch End, are among the traders encouraging shoppers to pick up a re-usable bag for life.

Mr Thornton said: "The council was wrong to reject this proposal. Our experience is that most people think the concept of a reduction in plastic bags is a good thing, but they still needed to change their habits.

"Look at the example of Ireland, where the government put a 15p tax on every plastic bag. This led to a 90 per cent reduction in plastic bag usage.

"In my own shop, we cut plastic bag usage by 60 per cent, so it's clearly about educating people so they change their behaviour."

Mr Thornton also launched a Pennies for Plastic appeal where he is giving a penny to Weston Park primary school every time a customer re-uses a plastic bag.

Although Haringey Council rejected the bag ban it is supporting a Restrictions on Shopping Bags Bill which London Councils will submit to Parliament next month. Under the bill, traders would be fined for supplying shoppers with a throw-away bag, but consumers could not be penalised for using them.

Lib Dem green spokesman Bob Hare said: "Labour is lacking the political leadership to stand with residents and support a proven grass-roots initiative that has already saved over half a million bags in Crouch End alone."

But the council's green spokesman Brian Haley said: "The Liberal Democrat motion was ill-thought-out and opportunistic. To implement such a scheme would take a great deal of money. We would need people to monitor the scheme and a huge publicity campaign to try to discourage people from using plastic bags.

"We agree this is an important issue but we think it can be implemented more effectively London, or preferably UK-wide."

The council's decision came on the same day the Government denounced London boroughs' "rubbish" rate for composting household waste. Haringey came 18th out of the 33 London boroughs despite increasing the amount of household waste recycled from 2.2 per cent to 5.37 per cent.