Councils want to use the London Local Authorities Bill to gain the power to impose new taxes on retail customers.
BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'Bags represent a fraction of 1 per cent of waste going to landfill. Retailers of all types are already well on the way to meeting a voluntary pledge to reduce the environmental impact of bags by 25 per cent. They are doing that with the co-operation of customers by rewarding re-use, giving away sturdier bags for life, enabling and encouraging recycling and reducing the amount of plastic in bags.'
The BRC said the effect of a bag tax in Ireland has been counter-productive. Retailers have switched to heavier paper bags and sales of thick black plastic bin bags have shot up because customers no longer have shop bags to line bins. The retail body said both these alternatives use more energy in manufacture and transport and are more environmentally harmful than thin plastic carrier bags.
Hawkins added: 'Local authorities would make a better contribution by standardising what material they will and won't recycle to simplify the recycling message.'