Cardiff Action Day success

Very successful Action Day in Cardiff on Saturday May 19th. TPA supporters gathered in Queen Street opposite Cardiff Castle and helped voice the concerns of local shopkeepers by raising a petition against the 5p plastic bag tax introduced by the Welsh Assembly six months ago. Lee Canning, Welsh grassroots co-ordinator spoke to camera teams from both ITV and the BBC, explaining how the bag tax is causing problems for small businessmen and traders.

‘No-one wants to see plastic bags littering the streets of Wales,’ Lee told ITV, ‘but this is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It adds an unacceptable burden on small businesses that are forced to comply with the regulation or risk a hefty fine. The Welsh Government should be encouraging families to reduce their reliance on bags, not punishing them when they don't.’

‘This is not a tax,’ hit back a Welsh Government spokesman.’No money from the charge will come to the Welsh Government but will instead be passed on to good causes by retailers. The TaxPayers' Alliance are a Tory front organisation. They speak for no one but themselves.’

But Cardiff traders have a different story to tell. ‘It can cause real problems with security,’ said the manager of a city centre sports shop. ‘One time a customer bought a ball and because he didn’t want it in a bag, he threw it to a friend and one of our assistants thought he was stealing it! Generally, we like out customers to walk around town with our products in our bags—it’s good advertising—this bag tax is nonsense.’ A retailer from Castle Arcade hated the extra level of bureaucracy it added. ‘I can’t put the charge through the till,’ he says,’ because I’ll have to pay tax on it. At the end of the day it’s another job to do, it’s fiddly and tiresome—it’s a pain in the neck.’ Many independent shopkeepers are paying the tax themselves rather that bother customers with it.

On top of that tourists are nonplussed by it, frequently wanting to see their souvenirs wrapped in several bags and not understanding why they have to pay for it. ‘It’s going to turn tourists off,’ says Lee. An Australian tourist told him he’d rather carry an uncovered bottle of wine around Cardiff because he thought it was ridiculous to pay for a bag for it.

Not all supermarkets support the bag tax either. The environmentally friendly Co-operative Group has argued against it in the past, citing evidence that paper bags are more of a pollutant and environmental concern than plastic bags. For a Green defence of the plastic bag see this story, which cites the British government’s environment agency report of 2006 that found that HDPE (high-density polyethylene, the typical lightweight plastic bags) are superior to paper because they require less energy and far less water to make and take up less space in landfill.

On our Action Day, 150 signatures were gathered in just one hour and we could have gone on to raise many more objections to this ill thought out tax.

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