The 5p plastic bag charge starts 5th October
The what? Yes, you read it correctly, from Monday 5 October the law introducing a 5p charge for plastic bags in England begins. It’s not been widely advertised, so we thought we’d try to de-mystify it for you!
The plastic bag – they’re everywhere and used by everyone at some point. They’re incredibly popular with 8.5 billion of them being used to take shopping home from just the supermarkets last year. In fact, the number taken last year actually increased by 200 million from the previous year.
That’s around 140 plastic bags taken per person in England and no one knows how many are given out by smaller retailers. Government research suggests that each of us has around 40 plastic bags stashed around our homes but we’re still taking more. Only 1 in 20 bags used is a bag for life.
Carrier bags may well be useful to take things home in but they’re bad for the environment. With around 16,000 tonnes of plastic bags being sent to landfill each year and 8 million tonnes of plastic finding its way in to the oceans something needs to be done.
It’s thought that over the next 10 years the charge will lead to a significant reduction in bags taken and also save £60 million of costs for cleaning them up from local environments including hedgerows, trees, alleyways etc.
There has been a charge on plastics bags in Ireland for over 12 years, Wales introduced their charge 3 years ago and in Scotland charging began last year. The results are dramatic. In Wales there’s been a reduction of 79% in plastic bags used and last year in Scotland the use of bags for life quadrupled.
How to reduce your plastic bag usage?
Check out our plastic bag re-use guide.
4 key things to know
- The law only insists that large retailers charge for plastic bags, these are ones with more than 250 employees. Small retailers can also charge but it’s not a legal requirement.
- You will not be charged if you take your own bags, even if it’s a plastic bag.
- No charge will be made if you take a paper bag or for plastic bags around certain items. These include food that needs to be wrapped otherwise it’s a food safety risk e.g. raw meat and fish, bags for prescription medicines and those around blades and fresh flowers won’t be charged for either.
- The money from the charge will be given to charity by the retailer. They are not allowed to keep it and it won’t be given to The Government because it’s not a tax. The retailers are responsible for choosing the charities and reporting to government how much they’ve donated and to which organisations. When the charge was first introduced in Wales and Scotland some large retailers asked their customers to vote for the charities they support.
Want to know more
There’s information written by the government available on the national Gov.uk website, here are the links for you: