The EU has come under fire for wanting to ban the use of disposable plastic shopping bags in order to help fight pollution.

This move reported in the Express may involve the banning of the bags from retail outlets or the imposition on a new tax that would mean the shops would have to pay for them somehow. Either by increased prices or a direct charge for the bags.

With the EU saying that the average shopper uses 500 of these bags a year and never re-uses them this proposal could have quite an impact.

But retail experts have said that this would hit sales and stifle the economic recovery as unplanned shopping trips become rarer due to the lack of single use bags. They also claim that it would alienate the shoppers from the green agenda, which is the opposite of what the EU is attempting to do with this measure.

This is being put down by some as EU meddling.

The EU view seems to be that there is a widespread desire for change. But the British Retail Consortium (BRC) thinks that the industry and consumers are working together to voluntarily alter peoples' behaviour with respect to these bags.

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said 'Fifty years ago, the single-use plastic bag was almost unheard of. Now we use them for a few minutes and they pollute our environment for decades. That's why we are looking at all the options, including a Europe-wide ban on plastic carrier bags. Social attitudes are evolving and there is a widespread desire for change. We need the views of as many people as possible to complement our scientific analyses and help drive policy on this issue, which is suffocating our ­environment.'

Mr Dodd of the BRC said 'Retailers have been very successful already at working with customers on reducing the number of bags handed out. This has been achieved on a voluntary basis and is the best way. Many people already carry their own bags around with them – but because they want to, not because they are being forced to. If you use the heavy hand of the law you're more likely to turn people off.'

According to the UK Environment Agency the UK already reuses 76% of carrier bags (the report (environment-agency.gov.uk/research/library/publications/129364.aspx) has been removed from the EA site due to a legal query).

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