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Plastic Bag Tax May Hit the Poorest Hardest

19/09/2013 15:33 BST | Updated 19/11/2013 10:12 GMT

There is no doubt in my mind that the so called plastic bag tax is a good idea, there needs to be action to tackle the number of plastic bags being used by consumers, as there is a growing strain on the planet.

The proposal from Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg is to force supermarkets in England to charge customers five pence for a plastic carrier bag in order to discourage their use and encourage customers to use bags for life. The Deputy Prime Minister stated that he hoped supermarkets would donate the cash to environmental charities.

Currently Northern Ireland and Wales currently charge customers for using plastic bags and Scotland will follow suit shortly. The First Minister of Wales, Labour's Carwyn Jones told the BBC in 2011 that: "The Welsh public have always been very supportive of the introduction of this charge and I look forward to the dramatic reduction in unnecessary waste that it will bring."

The policy in Wales seems to have reduced worked with reductions varying across supermarkets, with reductions of between 35-96% since the policy was launched two years ago.

According to BusinessWaste:

• 8.1 billion plastic bags are given away by supermarkets annually

• Britain disposed of 70,400 tons of used supermarket bags in 2012

• Customers bought over 408 million so-called "bags for life" last year

• The average shopper uses 10.7 plastic bags every month

But, whilst the idea may seem attractive to environmental campaigners, charging five pence for a carrier bag could in fact hit the poorest the hardest. It may not seem like a lot of money, but if one were to take Mr Smith, a single father with one child who works part time, he is likely to feel the pinch. Mr Smith doesn't drive and relies on public transport.

He does his shopping at one of the leading supermarkets and then has to get the bus home. So the shopping has to be in plastic carrier bags. He will have to add 50 pence onto his shop just to pay for using carrier bags which the majority of supermarkets allow customers to use free of charge.

Quite simply, for the poorest people in our society, every penny counts. Spending £1 or less on plastic bags may seem like nothing to many people, but for those on incredibly low incomes it will hit them.

What do you think? Is the plastic bag charge a good or bad idea? Vote here.