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Bag Charge England - When Should Retailers Charge 5p?

Retailers - do you know if you should be charging 5p for carrier bags? Get clear on the rules before October 5th to avoid a hefty penalty.

Bag Charge England - When Should Retailers Charge 5p?

Following on from the rest of the UK, as of October 5th 2015, shoppers will now have to pay 5p for plastic carrier bags at the supermarket and other large retailers. However, unlike Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there will be more exemptions to the charge.

Read on to find out which bags and which retailers are exempt from the charge to make sure that your retail business complies with the law. Failure to comply could result in fines of up to £20,000 so it will pay to get it right!   

Why have the Government introduced the plastic bag 'tax? 

The charge is not a tax and the revenue will not go to the Government. It is being implemented to reduce plastic bag waste and pollution and encourage people to bring reusable bags when they go shopping.  

Which retailers should collect the 5p bag charge? 

Any retailer with more than 250 employees (that figure includes all staff - not just retail personnel). If your store is part of a franchise you only count employees in your business (not those in the entire business). 

Read Government Guidance for Retailers for full details on counting employees  

Small to medium sized retailers with less than 250 employees aren't obliged to charge 5p but it is expected that many will do so voluntarily. We are trying to confirm whether small retailers are legally obliged to report revenue if they take part voluntarily. This hasn't been made clear so we are doing our best to find out.     

Which bags should shoppers be charged for?

Retailer must charge for any bags that are used to deliver goods or transport goods home.  These include:

  •  Bags 70 microns thick or less
  •  plastic bags 
  •  bags with handles
  • biodegradable carrier bags (although the government are considering an exemption)  

What bags are exempt from the charge?

You won't be charged for all bags - these include: 

  • plastic bags used for uncooked fish, meat and poultry
  • paper bags
  • bags to take away unwrapped food - such as fish and chips
  • unwrapped animal food
  • for prescription medicine
  • woven bags 
  • any reusable promotional bag
  • plastic bags used for providing services such as dry cleaning & shoe repairs  

carrier bag charge england exemption card

There will be no charge for any of these uses. However, if you were to put a packet of cornflakes (or other goods) in a bag with an unwrapped knife then retailers will have to charge for the bags.

This is an overview of how Bag Charge England and it's exemptions will work. For more details visit www.gov.uk/carrierbags. Retailers should also contact their local authority for more details as they will be enforcing the law and providing training.   

Read more blogs about the carrier bag levy

Want to Bag Your Business Brand? 


The Bag Charge presents a marketing opportunity for all businesses as Bag for Life usage is expected to soar. 

Custom-printed promotional bags are ideal for events, marketing campaigns, exhibitions and retail promotions.They are an effective promotional product and keep on advertising your business every time it's reused.  

Download your free guide and get all the information you need to create the perfect promotional bag to suit your marketing objectives, branding and budget

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