5p charge for carriers to become UK wide

16th September 2013

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  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Prevention & Control ,
  • Waste ,
  • Minimisation



England is to follow in the footsteps of the devolved governments and introduce a mandatory charge for single-use carrier bags, Nick Clegg has announced

Almost two years after the Welsh government introduced a 5p levy on disposable carrier bags and five months after the Northern Irish administration did so, the deputy prime minister has confirmed that supermarkets in England will be forced to charge their customers for bags.

The 5p charge will apply from autumn 2015, one year after the Scottish authorities plan to introduce their own levy.

“We’ve waited too long for action,” acknowledged Clegg in announcing the move. “Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside. They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals.”

In Wales, where the 5p charge was introduced on 1 October 2011, the number of carrier bags given to shoppers by supermarkets fell 76% in 2012 compared with the previous 12 months. Meanwhile, in England the number of bags used by shoppers increased 4.4% to 7.06 billion each year over the same period.

In 2012, the average shopper in England used 11.1 single-use carrier bags each month, while in Wales it was just 1.8 bags.

“Introducing a small charge for plastic bags will make people think twice before throwing them away,” commented Lord de Mauley, minister for resource management. “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.”

Small and medium-sized businesses will be exempt from issuing the charge, Defra has confirmed, and there are plans for biodegradable bags, which meet specified quality standards also being exempt.

In Wales, funds raised from the charge are given to charity and initial plans for the charge in England are to follow the same principles. Clegg has confirmed that retailers will be consulted on how the money will be charged. Some retailers, like Marks & Spencer, already charge for carriers.

Clegg’s announcement came after the Scottish government published draft regulations on implementing the charge for public comment. Organisations have until 11 December to comment on the draft legislation, which will introduce the charge on 20 October 2014.

Scotland’s environment secretary, Richard Lochhead, said: “The purpose of the charge is to encourage shoppers to think about reusing bags to prevent litter and combat the throwaway culture that Scotland has.

“It is now time for a national effort to cut the impact of carrier bags in Scotland. Many people already use bags for life allowing them to reuse and recycle and this levy will make others stop and think about if they can do the same.”

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