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April 2007

UK shops cut environmental impact of shopping bags

London— UK retailers have agreed to reduce the overall environmental impact of their carrier bags by 25% by the end of 2008.

The move comes in a joint initiative involving representatives from all areas of the retail sector and in response to a concerted call for action from environment ministers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They have agreed to support the campaign together with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), which manages waste prevention programs for the four governments.

The agreement gives flexibility to allow individual retailers to respond to the agreement in ways that are best suited to their customers and type of trading, and recognizes that a number are already addressing this issue through a variety of approaches.

Retailers will be reducing the environmental impact of bags by encouraging customers to reduce significantly the number of carrier bags they use, reducing the impact of each carrier bag and by enabling the recycling of more carrier bags where appropriate.

If achieved, the 25% reduction target could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 58,500 tons a year - equivalent to taking 18,000 cars off the road for a year. It is another example of the simple practical measures that can be taken to help tackle climate change.

Each signatory is working with WRAP to identify a baseline figure against which the impact can be measured. Progress will be monitored jointly by the retailer signatories, government and WRAP and a review will be completed before the end of 2008 to make further reductions by 2010.

WRAP director Phillip Ward, explained: “This initiative builds on WRAP’s broader work with the retail sector to reduce packaging waste. Where there is genuine commitment, flexible voluntary arrangements like this can be successful in bringing change.”

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