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Carrier bag charge from October 5th: reaction from and Friends of the Earth



The government has introduced a law which will require large shops in England to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags from 5 October 2015. They anticipate that the charge will reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags, and the litter they can cause, by encouraging people to reuse bags.

Large businesses will need to charge for single-use plastic carrier bags. This applies to retailers who have 250 or more employees. Smaller businesses can also charge on a voluntary basis if they wish. Whether or not a shop must charge for bags depends on the size of the company that runs the shop, not on the size of an individual branch. Ministers were accused of a tax grab after it emerged VAT will apply to sales of bags.  This means the Treasury will pocket almost 1p for each one sold and estimates show it stands to make around £19million a year.

With UK consumers set to be hit with a 5p charge for carrier bags from Monday the 5th of October, new research from financial comparison website reveals that for those who forgot to ‘bring their own’ could together be hit with a bill of almost £100 million for carrier bags between now and Christmas alone. The 5p charge might sound negligible but based on average carrier bag usage, shoppers could find themselves paying for 166 bags in one year, a total bill of £8.32 each.

Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of comments: “Saying farewell to free carrier bags may sound like a simple change for the good of the environment but when you look beneath the surface the new ruling is a minefield for shoppers and checkout staff alike. The intricacies that dictate when shoppers should and shouldn’t be charged for a bag are overly complicated so I wouldn’t rule out checkout chaos next Monday.

“The 5p charge is there as a deterrent, and it will add upwards of £8 to shopping bills over the course of a year, but this is really about cutting the number of plastic bags we use. I’m sure everyone will get used to the charges pretty quickly but I just hope people remember to ‘pack their bags’ before they head to the shops.”

Speaking ahead of its introduction, Friends of the Earth’s Senior Resources Campaigner, David Powell, said:
“Charging for plastic bags has made a massive difference in the rest of the UK, so it’s about time England caught up. The English charge is a good start, but it makes no sense that it only applies to big retailers.  Shoppers will get mixed messages depending on where they shop. This could defeat the main point of the charge in the first place – to change the way people and stores think about over-using plastic bags.

“In Wales 90% of businesses large and small have said their 5p charge hasn’t had an impact on trade, and three quarters of the Welsh population think the charge has been a good thing all round. Reducing plastic bag use is a visible and important measure, but it’s hardly job done.  From the oceans of pointless plastic wrapping our food and consumer goods, to flat-lining household recycling rates, England has a very long way to go if it’s serious about keeping waste out of our land, rivers and seas.”