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Plastic bag charge to double to 10p

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Written by: Emma Lunn
07/05/2021
Single-use plastic bags will cost 10p in all shops in England from 21 May in a bid to ramp up the war on plastic waste.

All stores will be required to apply the new charge. Previously only retailers with 250 employees or more needed to do so.

The single-use carrier bag charge has seen a 95% cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets since 2015. As a result of the charge, the average person in England now buys just four single-use carrier bags a year from the main supermarkets, compared with 140 in 2014.

The government says that by extending the charge to all retailers, it is expected that the use of single-use carrier bags will decrease by 70 to 80% in small and medium-sized businesses.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “The introduction of the 5p charge has been a phenomenal success, driving down sales of harmful plastic bags in supermarkets by a remarkable 95%. We know we must go further to protect our natural environment and oceans, which is why we are now extending this charge to all businesses.

“Over the next couple of weeks I urge all retailers of all sizes to make sure they are ready for the changes, as we work together to build back greener and strengthen our world-leading action to combat the scourge of plastic waste.”

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “We strongly welcome the inclusion of local shops and other small businesses into the successful plastic bag charging scheme, which not only helps the environment, but is also a great way for retailers to raise money for local and national charities.”

A new report published today from charity WRAP finds a shift in attitude towards plastic bags since the charge was first brought in. The survey found that close to seven in 10 (69%) were either ‘strongly’ or ‘slightly’ in favour of the charge when it was first introduced, and that has now increased to 73%.

Of those surveyed, two in three (67%) said they used a ‘bag-for-life’ – either fabric or more durable plastic – to take their shopping home for a large food shop in store, with only 14% using a single-use carrier bag.

Only one in four (26%) purchase bags from the till when doing food shops – including 4% who say they do this ‘always’. This represents a significant fall since 2014 before the charge was introduced, when more than twice as many (57%) reported taking plastic carrier bags from the till. Meanwhile, more than half (54%) say they take less bags from the till.

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