From October 5th 2015, all large businesses in England will need to charge for single-use plastic carrier bags by law, this is to help reduce waste. This scheme aims to encourage retailers and consumers to be less wasteful as plastic bags take longer to degrade in the environment compared to bags made from materials such as paper.
As a shopper, you can avoid the 5p charge altogether by supplying your own bags. In some shops, you will be able to purchase thick, reusable ‘bags for life’ which come with a one off charge and can be returned for a free replacement when they wear out.
Customers will not be required to pay the five pence charge if they are using a paper bag, or if the bag only contains certain items such as unwrapped food, raw meat and fish, uncovered blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers, as well as prescription medicines.
You will not be charged for a bag at shops in airports, on board trains, aeroplanes or ships either.
The scheme aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags and to protect the environment, as it is having a negative impact by damaging wildlife as well as creating litter and pollution.
In 2014 alone, over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were distributed to customers by major supermarkets in England, which works out to be about 140 bags per person and is equivalent to 61,000 tonnes in total.
The scheme expects to see significant reduction in the use of single-use plastic carrier bags as a direct result of the charge, by as much as 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street.
It is estimated that over the next 10 years, the scheme will deliver benefits such as an expected overall benefit of over £780 million to the UK economy, £60 million being saved in litter clean-up spots as well as carbon savings of £13 million. Those are some enormous figures to think about the next time you’re offered a plastic shopping bag!
The money that will be saved though this scheme is not taxed and will not go to the government.
Retailers will be expected to donate the proceeds of the scheme to good causes, but ultimately it is the decision of the retailer what they choose to do with the money.
Retailers need to report to the government about what they do with the money, and this information will be published annually.
Smaller businesses can also charge on a voluntary basis if they wish to. Whether or not a shop charges for bags depends on the size of the company that runs the shop, not the size of the individual branch.
Similar charges have already been established in places across Scotland, Wales and Northern Island. Wales saw a reduction in plastic bag consumption by a staggering 79% in its first three years and has generated millions of pounds which it has used to support good causes.
In a survey conducted by The Guardian, 33% of consumers strongly agree that it is reasonable to charge 5p for the use of carrier bags, whereas 15% strongly disagree. What do you think about the charges being put in place?
Member since: 10th July 2012
My name is Alex Murray. I am passionate about what goes on in and around Walsall. I hope you find my blog to be interesting and thought provoking. Please feel free to give me your feedback.