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Plastic police to enforce London bag ban?

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Updated The M25 will become the UK’s biggest environmental fault line if London Councils decide to press ahead with plans to ban plastic bags in the capital.

The proposed ban will result in some kind of bag police patrolling London to make sure retailers and shoppers carry all their purchases, gym kit, old clothes, nappies, household rubbish, etc, in suitably environmentally friendly containers.

London Councils, an umbrella group for London's local authorities, said a public consultation showed that 90 per cent of Londoners had "called for action to address the environmental impact caused by throw away shopping bags".

More dramatically, faced with the option of a ban or a levy, 60 per cent had called for an outright ban on one-time only bags, and want London Councils to push for such a prohibition when the tenth London Local Authorities Bill reaches Parliament this month. Just under two thirds said any action should apply only to plastic carrier bags.

London Councils will decide later today what action to take, but according to The Guardian, it is likely to press for an outright ban, as the Treasury is unlikely to support a tax on plastic bags in London, and it would be a burden for councils to administer. If it gets the go ahead, a ban could kick in in as little as 18 months.

However, London Councils will then face the problem of how to police the PVC prohibition, with the group's own report admitting: "A ban would be easier to enforce compared to a levy although there may be difficulties in the outer areas of London where it could be difficult to prove the source of the bags."

Yes, we're talking random bag checks. Presumably, Community Police Support officers will be reassigned from whatever it is they normally do to patrol the borders of outlying boroughs to prevent plastic bags being smuggled in over the North Downs or from Essex's out of town shopping centres.

We also assume checkpoints will be put in place on roads leading into the capital, to ensure that Londoners coming in from out of town retail parks can be shaken-down, and any offending packaging confiscated.

That leaves the problem of tourists coming into the capital, via the airports, for example. A new customs lane for "nothing to declare but my carrier bags" should do the trick here, with random body searches just to keep everyone else on their toes.

Not everyone agrees with the councils though. The UK's packaging and industrial films association is standing firm against the proposals, according to the Guardian. Which is what you'd expect from an organisation proud to declare on its website that: "PVC actually helps save environmental damage and alleviates human misery." Which is fair enough. No one ever paid to watch Britney Spears dancing in a skintight catsuit made from hemp.

The "public consultation" was carried out online from Friday 14 September to 26 October. London Councils said 1,752 people took part, with 100 emails and 270 letters also received. ®

Update

London Councils has approved the proposal, and will push for a Private Bill which will ban free disposable carriers, with retailers having to sell disposable bags with profits going to eco causes.

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