Today (5 October) the 5p charge for single-use plastic carrier bags comes into effect in England.
The charge, which will apply for all retailers with 250 or more full-time employees, is expected to significantly reduce the number of plastic bags taken from shops. It follows the success of similar schemes in Scotland and Wales – in Wales the charge led to a 79 per cent decrease in plastic bags in three years.
In 2014, 7.64 billion single use plastic bags were given out by major supermarkets in England.
Environment Minister Rory Stewart said:
The more bags we take from the shops, the more plastic makes its way into our environment, blighting our high streets, spoiling our enjoyment of the countryside, and damaging our wildlife and marine environments.
Simple changes to our shopping routines, such as taking our own bags with us or using more bags for life, can make a huge difference in reducing the amount of plastic in circulation meaning we can all enjoy a cleaner, healthier country.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have seen a dramatic fall in the number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets and we can expect a significant reduction in England, possibly by as much as 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street.
Plastic bags can have a significant impact on the environment – around eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans each year, polluting our marine environment and harming our precious sea life.
Good causes are set to benefit from the charge, and as much as £730 million could be donated to charities and not-for-profits over 10 years.
Watch our short video for consumers and others explaining the 5p charge for single-use plastic carrier bags:
Transcript of commentary on video:
From 5 October 2015, large shops in England will have to charge five pence for all single use plastic carrier bags they provide. In 2013, the major supermarkets in England gave out over 7.4 billion plastic bags – that’s 133 bags for every person. To protect our environment from litter and pollution we are committed to bringing this number down.
The five pence charge on single use plastic carrier bags could reduce usage by as much as 80% in the big supermarkets. Small retailers don’t have to charge but can do so on a voluntary basis. You can avoid paying the charge either by reusing single use plastic carrier bags, or by using multi-use bags for life. You also won’t pay a five pence charge if you’re using a paper bag, if you’re in transit, or if your bag only contains certain items, such as unwrapped food, raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, uncovered blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers, or live fish.
Retailers need to keep track of how many plastic bags they’ve given out and where the proceeds have gone … and report this to Government by 31 May every year. We expect good causes to benefit from the charge by tens of millions of pounds each year.