What is the carrier bag charge and why is it being introduced now?
The British Government estimates that over seven billion plastic bags were handed out by supermarkets alone during 2013. Many of these bags cause environmental pollution by ending up in landfill or creating a hazard to wildlife when they end up in the sea, rivers and countryside.
By introducing a plastic bag charge, the Government hopes that people will reduce the amount of plastic bags they use and reuse the bags they already have. This is backed up by evidence from Wales and Northern Ireland who have seen an 80% reduction in the number of carrier bag issued since the charge was introduced.
Will the carrier bag charge effect all retailers?
So, small retailers won’t be effected at all. Large shops, supermarkets and chain stores will have to pass on a 5 pence charge for every single use carrier bag a customer takes.
How should you collect the charge and where will the money go?
Retailers are free to choose whatever charity they wish, although the government has suggested that retailers donate to environmental charities.
Retailers will be required to set up a system for collecting and accounting for all revenue collected and donated to charity.
Marks & Spencer have charged 5p for bags in England since 2007. They donate profits to the World Wildlife Fund, the Marine Conservation Society and other environmental projects. They also use the money for education projects for school children to promote awareness about marine life and conservation.
We are still waiting for full confirmation on the details of which single-use carrier bags will be included (ie just plastic or paper too?) and whether single use biodegradable bags will be exempt. We’ll update you as and when new details are released.
For a more detailed look at what the carrier bag charge means to independent retailers in all territories, read our guest blog for bira “What does the plastic bag charge mean for independent retailers.”