Press release

Plastic bag charge set to benefit the environment

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Charge for single use carrier bags to be introduced.

Find out more about what the carrier bag charge means for consumers and retailers.

A five pence mandatory charge for single use carrier bags will be introduced from Autumn 2015, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, announced today.

Last year, over seven billion carrier bags were issued by supermarkets in England. Far too many ended up in landfill or scattered around our streets and rivers killing wildlife and costing tax-payers millions of pounds to clean-up.

Similar charges in Ireland, Wales and Switzerland have led to an 80 per cent reduction in the number of carrier bags issued.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said:

Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside. They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals.

This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now. The charge will be implemented sensibly - small businesses will be exempt.

We will discuss with retailers how the money raised should be spent but I call on them to follow the lead of industry in Wales and donate the proceeds to charity.

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said:

We have all seen the effects of discarded plastic bags caught in trees and hedges or ending up in rivers where they harm animals.

Introducing a small charge for plastic bags will make people think twice before throwing them away. Year on year, the number of bags issued by retailers has been rising. Without a charge, the problem could escalate out of control and see our environment and animals suffer enormously.

There are also plans to incentivise businesses for bringing biodegradable plastic bags to market in England. Provided the bags meet the required criteria, these could be exempt from a charge.

It’s expected that the charging scheme in England will follow the Welsh model in which retailers voluntarily give profits to charity. Small businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be exempt from the charge to ensure that they are not disproportionately burdened by the charges.

The government will also incentivise biodegradable bags. A new high standard for these products will be developed with manufactures. Bags which meet that standard will be exempt from the charge.