Brown prepared to ban plastic bags

Gordon Brown has given his strongest indication yet that he could outlaw free plastic bags.

Writing in a national newspaper, the prime minister urged all major retailers to do more to eliminate single-use plastic bags.

In November, Mr Brown told supermarkets they needed to find ways of cutting plastic use, with the government and retailers agreeing a voluntary commitment to cut plastic bag use by 25 per cent.

Today Mr Brown praised Ikea’s policies, which have seen it cut plastic bag use by 95 per cent, and Marks and Spencer’s recent decision to charge for bags.

Reportedly, ministers are prepared to legislate against single-use plastic bags if retailers cannot find ways of reducing their use.

Legislation could be brought forward this year via an amendment to the climate change bill, which will set legally-binding targets to reduce UK carbon emissions.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Brown said he wanted to eventually see single-use plastic bags eliminated all together.

“The government is ready to do what it can to encourage a change in the way we use these bags,” he said.

As the newspaper launches its own campaign to ban bags, Mr Brown said cutting plastic bag use is “one of the most straightforward ways we can all do something directly to improve our environment and reduce pollution”.

Describing his own efforts to mitigate climate change, he revealed the Brown family regularly recycles and does not leave gadgets on standby. He also confirmed he has had solar panels installed at his constituency home.

The Conservatives have attacked the government’s own plastic bag usage, claiming 1.2 million Whitehall-branded plastic bags have been ordered over the past two years.

Shadow communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “There is growing public concern that plastic bags cause environmental damage and endanger our wildlife. It is the height of hypocrisy for government ministers to waste taxpayers’ money on such vanity purchases.

“While Gordon Brown lectures the public on the environment, his own ministers are fuelling Britain’s throw-away culture.”