LEEDS Co-op has organised a customers ?referendum' on the issue of plastic carrier bags and whether a Government tax would deter shoppers from using them.
The vote ? with the straightforward question: "Would you support a tax on carrier bags?" ? is to be held in all the society's stores on Saturday 5th June.
Environmentalists argue that if shoppers had to pay they would re-use bags they already have.
So there would be no need for the estimated 20 billion bags UK food stores provide each year; grocery prices would fall and there would be a huge impact on the country's litter and environmental problems.
Following the introduction of a carrier bag ?tax' in Ireland equivalent to 10p per bag two years ago, supermarkets reported a drop in use of 90 per cent as shoppers re-used old plastic bags or reverted to traditional shopping bags.
The UK Government and some retailers including the Co-operative Group are known to favour a similar initiative here, but store chains are reluctant to introduce the scheme unilaterally in case it leads to customers deserting to rivals.
But, in the meantime, Leeds Co-op wants to know what its members and customers think and set up voting stations with electronic counters at all the society's stores on Saturday ? United Nations World Environment Day.
"The ?bag tax' is a more controversial retail problem than it looks at first," said Leeds Co-op Chief Executive Alan Gill. "We have a strong commitment to environmental issues because this is part of our co-operative approach to responsible retailing.
"In this case, future generations would thank us for protecting the environment from the curse of plastic carrier bags.
"A tax would mean we used fewer ? so there would be less litter blowing around the streets, trapped in tree branches and shrubbery or flapping from overhead cables."
Added Mr Gill: "Businesses would not have to burn up natural resources distributing vast quantities around the country. And the saving from such a significant overhead would restrict price increases.
"But the short-term effect of a ?bag tax' would inevitably pass on the cost to customers and raise the shopping bill a little ? otherwise there would be no incentive to recycle and re-use."