THE Co-operative Group has hit out against a proposed plastic bag tax in Scotland.
At an environmental committee meeting in the Scottish Parliament, Becky Toal, Environmental Programme Manager, argued against a levy of 10p on plastic bags across Scotland proposed by Lib Dem MSP Mike Pringle in his Plastic Bags Bill.
Ms Toal said that while the Group backed the ethos of waste management it did not support a charge on bags, which could bring further environmental repercussions and even violence instore.
She said it agreed with Scottish Retail Consortium's submission to the committee that plastic carrier bags are not a significant contributor to litter pollution and only account for 0.064 per cent.
The Group also agreed with other comments from the SRC that included the theory that customer pressure will see high street stores replacing plastic bags with paper bags, which will displace any environmental benefit of a plastic levy.
Added the SRC: "Supporting evidence has shown that paper bags have a higher environmental impact in the categories of consumption of water, emissions of greenhouse gases and eutrophication of water bodies (rivers, lakes, etc) relative to plastic bags.
"Furthermore, paper bags are 4-5 times more voluminous than plastic, resulting in an equivalent increase in the number of deliveries to store. This will lead to increased road miles, added congestion and vehicle emissions."
Small retailers would also be put at a disadvantage when administering the levy, according to the SRC, and convenience retailers such as the Co-op would be affected by customers reducing their amount of impulse purchases, which stores rely on.
Ms Toal, told the committee: "The Co-op is committed to seeking new ways of minimising the impact of industry on the environment.
"We firmly support the Scottish Executive's desire to tackle the problem of waste and have introduced a raft of environmentally-friendly initiatives over the years to reduce the environmental impact of our trading activities.
"The Co-operative Group and other societies trading within Scotland do not believe the current proposal is a workable solution to the challenge of minimising the environmental impact of plastic carrier bags."
Ms Toal also added that customers could potentially start a backlash against customers with an increase in violence: "Store-based colleagues would be likely to face significant customer challenge to the introduction of the levy.
"The rise of physical and verbal abuse faced by many employees in the retail sector has been well charted by Usdaw in its Freedom From Fear campaign.
"If responsibility for communicating about the levy rests with retailers and retail employees, they would be likely to face uncertainty, at best, and annoyance, at worst, from consumers.
"Finally, we believe very careful consideration should be given to the issue to ensure that any proposal really does address the issue of environmental impact. We believe that the Bill, as it currently stands, is of questionable environmental benefit and have reservations about its contribution to greater sustainable development."
A spokeswoman for the Co-operative Group said: "We have raised concerns about a plastic bag tax before, but this is the first time we have formally presented our arguments."