Plastic carrier bag charge to double from 5p to 10p

Minimum pricing rolled out to all shops in England from April 2021

Peter Stubley
Monday 31 August 2020 05:27 BST
Raoul Thulin explains how plastic bags were meant to help the planet

The plastic bag charge will be doubled to 10p and extended to all shops across England from April 2021.

Environment secretary George Eustice said the rise was intended to encourage shoppers to buy environmentally friendly bags and reduce ocean pollution.

However, campaigners criticised the lack of action on “bags for life” after statistics suggested that many shoppers were using the heavy-duty items only once.

The 5p charge was introduced in 2015 and is credited with a 95 per cent fall in plastic bag sales in supermarkets.

While it only applied to any retailer employing 250 or more staff, it quickly resulted in the removal of billions of single-use bags from circulation in the UK. The average person in England now buys just four bags a year from the main supermarkets, compared with 140 in 2014.

The number of plastic bags on the UK’s beaches has also dropped by more than 60 per cent, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Proposals to increase the charge to 10p and extend it to all retailers were announced in 2018 but ended up in limbo amid the Tory leadership contest, the general election and the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The charge was even temporarily suspended for online deliveries for six months from 21 March.

Confirming the increase would go ahead, Mr Eustice said: “The carrier bag charge has been hugely successful in taking billions of harmful plastic bags out of circulation.

“But we want to go further by extending this to all retailers so we can continue to cut unnecessary waste and build back greener. We have all seen the devastating impact plastic bags have on the oceans and on precious marine wildlife.”

Dr Laura Foster from the Marine Conservation Society said the announcement was “encouraging”, adding: “It’s so important we reduce our reliance on single use items and we move to a culture of reuse. This increased charge, and extending to all retailers, will help remind people of everyday, simple changes they can make to help the marine environment.”

Greenpeace campaigner Sam Chetan-Welsh said the government should make greater efforts to reduce plastic pollution. “Raising the price of plastic bags but not taking action on bags for life is only looking at one part of the problem,” he said.

“And it could be construed as tokenism. The government should be setting legally binding targets now for retailers to reduce single-use plastics by 50 per cent by 2025. And they should be working quickly to make sure the big brand plastic producers take responsibility for disposing their waste. If they’re increasing costs for shoppers, ministers really have no excuse not to increase costs for the companies that are responsible for the escalating volumes of single-use plastic packaging in the first place.”

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