PLASTIC bags could be outlawed in Kirklees.

Kirklees Council has been lobbying the Government this week for the right to ban carrier bags.

And one Huddersfield village – Meltham – aims to lead the way.

But Clr Martyn Bolt, Kirklees Cabinet Member for the Environment, says an outright ban is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

The council is seeking a voluntary agreement between retailers – including supermarkets – and itself to stock environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Clr Bolt says the council is researching alternatives, with jute – a cheap and strong vegetable thread – as a forerunner.

Jute was previously produced in Huddersfield during the town’s textile industry boom.

Clr Bolt said: “A ban will require national legislation, but the Government doesn’t seem to want to bite the environmental bullet. Plastic bags are an environmental menace.

“Even in the USA, which is hardly known for its environmental stance, shoppers are given a choice of paper or plastic bags. That’s what British shops should offer.

“The council welcomes shops and supermarkets who would like to promote alternatives.

“A voluntary agreement is likely to be more successful if people are in agreement from the start.

“At the moment we’re working out prices for these jute bags and then we will contact supermarkets and other shops.

“Jute bags could help revive Kirklees’ textile industry.”

Liberal Democrat Clr Ann Denham says Kirklees Council can do more to reduce plastic bag waste.

She said: “It is amazing to think the average person uses around 290 bags per year, meaning over 100 million are used locally each year.

“Last time we debated this issue the Conservatives refused to take action, but I hope they will now support my call to improve our local environment and cut waste by tackling plastic bags.”

Meltham Town Council are already considering banning free plastic bags from its shops.

Town councillor Nigel Priestley said: “There is a general consensus that plastic bags are a scourge.”

It is estimated that it takes between 500 to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to break down in the environment and that every year in the UK 200 million plastic bags end up as litter on our beaches, streets and parks.

“Meltham is a lovely place to live and we want to make it even better,” said Clr Priestley. “The role of the town council in this is to see if Meltham residents and traders are interested in the scheme.We are writing to Morrisons – who dominate Meltham in terms of supermarket shopping – to see if they have any plans, and we’re going to consult with Hebden Royd town council to learn from their experiences.”

They will also work alongside Calderdale Council and the local Co-op.

Clr Priestley stresses that the scheme is very much in its infancy, but that if it is something that the public support then the town council will help push it forward.

“We want to light the touch paper,” he said. “We can’t do it if people don’t want it. These are our first faltering steps, but it is, in principle, something that we want to progress. We would like to encourage residents to help make the world a better place, one step at a time.”

Hebden Bridge went plastic carrier bag-free in September and Meltham wants to use their experiences to guide them through the process.

Most of the traders in Hebden Bridge no longer offer new carriers to customers, although there are eco-friendly options available at a charge if shoppers forget to take their own.

“The town council is not just here for planning issues,” explained Clr Priestly. “Our role is to raise awareness of the needs of others and to help facilitate change. Anyone interested in supporting this scheme should contact myself or the town clerk, Sarah Armitage.”

This week, London councils have also announced that they are considering banning free plastic bags and in May the small Devon town of Modbury became the first town in Britain to ban carriers.

To contact Meltham Town Council, telephone 01484 852367, email, or write to them at Town Hall, Meltham, Huddersfield, HD9 4AG.