DEFRA has played down reports that it has any immediate plans to introduce a 9p tax on plastic bags to reduce waste from supermarkets. A spokeswoman confirmed environment minister Michael Meacher was keeping a close eye on events in the Irish Republic, which introduced a tax on bags in February. However, it would wait to see the results of the Irish government's assessment of the scheme "in about threemonths" before making any firm decisions. Early indications are that the scheme has been a major success, added the spokeswoman: "It appears the demand for throw-away bags has fallen significantly, resulting in a beneficial effect on litter and waste minimisation. "However, the Irish government has only recently introduced its scheme, and we will want to see how, in the slightly longer term, it affects the number of plastic bags used." Sainsbury, Asda and Tesco declined to comment on any scheme ahead of a government announcement but said their reusable bags for life' and carrier bag recycling schemes had proved very effective in reducing waste. Superquinn marketing director Eamonn Quinn said the company now used just 2.5% of the carrier bags given out before the tax. {{NEWS }}