Shoppers' huge NO to free bags: 140 towns join our crusade


Last updated at 23:35 29 February 2008

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A mass movement is building against the throwaway bags that are wrecking our environment, with more than 140 towns, boroughs and villages demanding a ban.

The Government is coming under intense pressure to give local councils the right to impose an outright ban on the "plastic poison", forcing a switch to long-life re-usable alternatives.

The Daily Mail "Banish the Bags" campaign has fired the enthusiasm of community leaders in places as far afield as Peterborough in Cambridgeshire and Newport in Shropshire.

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Plastic bags: The scourge of wildlife

Scroll down to the bottom of this article to see a list of the towns which have joined our crusade

Even places as distant as Gibraltar have been inspired to act by the Daily Mail's campaign.

A staggering 12.4billion single-use bags are handed out free of charge by high street stores every year.

Most are used for just 20 minutes before being dumped and sent to landfill sites where they can take up to 1,000 years to rot away.

Millions pollute the countryside, parks, rivers and the oceans, causing untold harm to wildlife, including seabirds, turtles and dolphins.

Local councils have no power to enforce a ban on single-use plastic bags, or impose a levy in order to encourage a switch to alternatives.

Rather, they have to rely on their ability to persuade retailers to voluntarily sign up to a ban. This works in small towns dominated by independent shops, but is impossible when dealing with large chains.

This is why the 33 councils of London are in the forefront of efforts to change the law. They are sponsoring a bill through Parliament that will give them the authority to ban throwaway bags or impose a levy.

The Conservative leader of the councils, Merrick Cockell, said: "People need to realise that the free plastic bag they pick up in the supermarket is not really free at all - certainly not in its cost to the environment.

"We all need to work together to reduce the damage they can cause in the UK and around the world."

Groups such as Friends of the Earth, the website and the Marine Conservation Society are offering guidance to groups lobbying for voluntary bag bans.

Waste expert at Friends of the Earth Scotland, Ros Browning, said: "The public are becoming increasingly aware of the problems associated with plastic bags.

"There is now a 'plastic bag free frenzy' which is sweeping the nation and it's great to see. Plastic bags are a symbol of our throwaway society and banning them or charging for their use is an important step towards changing consumer behaviour."

From Maldon in Essex, to Pembrokeshire in South Wales and from Saltash in Cornwall to Dundee in Scotland, more than 140 communities are taking action to ban the bags.

Chief executive of Peterborough Environment City Trust, Hugh Cripps, said: "The front page articles in the Daily Mail have been the catalyst for action. We now have it confirmed that a fully fledged ban the bag campaign will be run in Peterborough."

The council's environment chief, Councillor Graham Murphy, added: "This Daily Mail campaign will bring significant benefits for future generations."

Yesterday, Suffolk County Council announced steps to Banish the bags. Councillor Eddy Alcock said: "Our first goal must be to free the county of the light, flimsy, throwaway - and blow-away - type of bag. Where the public use the heavier plastic bags, I urge them to reuse the bags as often as possible."

A spokesman for said: "It's really caught the imagination because it's a simple change that people can make that will make a big difference."

The town of Modbury in Devon, which was the first to go plastic bag free, has provided the template for other campaigns.

Litter policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, Sue Kinsey, said: "People have realised that this simple idea can bring an almost instantaneous benefit.

"Thousands of marine animals will survive as a direct result of these actions."

Three days that set Britain talking

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The Daily Mail's campaign to banish throwaway plastic bags began on Wednesday with the paper highlighting how the 13billion we dump each year are blighting our countryside and the oceans.

We offered free reusable bags for each reader, a free educational wallchart for each school and asked you, our readers, to write to the Prime Minister calling for a change in the law.

The following day, Marks & Spencer pledged to stop offering free throwaway bags while celebrities and environmental groups rallied to the cause.

Yesterday Gordon Brown promised to legislate on the matter by ordering supermarkets to follow the example of M&S.

Today the campaign continues as a poll shows that three quarters of the British public back a ban on free plastic bags.

Banish the Bags - Where action is already underway (Source Marine Conservation Society)

Devon: Modbury, Ashburton, Bideford, Bovey Tracy, Chagford, Crediton, Exeter, Kingsbridge, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Torrington, Totnes

Dorset: Christchurch, Dorchester, Isle of Portland & Weymouth, Lyme Regis, Wimborne Minster

Hampshire: Alresford, Bishop's Waltham, Emsworth, Romsey

Cornwall: Helston, Millbrook, Pensilva, St Germans, Saltash

Buckinghamshire: Chesham, High Wycombe

Cambridgeshire: Girton, Peterborough

Cheshire: Wilmslow (Chapel Lane)

Co. Durham: Durham

Bristol: Bristol

Wiltshire: Tisbury

Brighton and Hove: Brighton

West Yorkshire: Hebden Bridge

Berkshire: Reading

Hampshire: Overton

Bath and NE Somerset: Bath

East Sussex: Eastbourne, Forest Row

Essex: Maldon

Gloucestershire: Stroud, Fairford

Herefordshire: Hereford

Herts: Royston

Isle of Wight: Ventnor

Kent: Deal, Sidcup

Leicester City: Leicester

Lincolnshire: Market Deeping, Sleaford

Manchester: Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Norfolk: Aylsham

North Yorkshire: Harrogate, Knaresborough

Northamptonshire: Northampton, Hockerton

Oxfordshire: Faringdon, Thame, Wantage

Rutland: Uppingham

Shropshire: Newport

Somerset: Glastonbury, Wellington, Winscombe

South Yorkshire: Penistone

Staffordshire: Newcastle-under-Lyne, Stoke-on-Trent

Suffolk: Ipswich, Newmarket

Surrey: Farnham, Godalming

Sussex: Kempston, Kemptown

Warwickshire: Coventry

West Sussex: Arundel, Amberley, Chichester, Henfield

West Midlands: Walsall

West Yorkshire: Huddersfield

Wiltshire: Melksham

Wirral: Wirral

Worcestershire: Evesham, Upton Upon Severn

York: York

Yorkshire: Bradford, Kirklees

The Island of Guernsey


Aberdeenshire: Banchory

Argyll & Bute: Dunoon, Taynuilt

Dundee: Dundee

East Lothian: North Berwick

Edinburgh: Edinburgh

Falkirk: Falkirk

Highland: Ullapool



Scottish Borders: Selkirk

The Isle of Arran

The Isle of Mull


Powys: Hay-on-Wye

Bridgend: Porthcawl

Carmarthenshire: Newcastle Emlyn

Denbighshire: Llangollen

Newport: Newport

Pembrokeshire: Llandysilio

Powys: Newtown, Llanidloes

Vale of Glamorgan

London: Hillingdon, Harrow, Barnet, Enfield, Hounslow, Ealing, Brent, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Richmond, Kingston, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Greenwich, Merton, Bexley, Sutton, Croydon, Bromley, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster, City, Camden, Islington

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