Large retailers across England are preparing for the single-use bag charge which will be introduced in October 2015. The charge is already in force for the rest of the United Kingdom - retailers in Scotland, NI and Wales must charge 5p for each single-use carrier bag a customer takes.
Unsurprisingly, these nations have seen a huge drop in the numbers of single-use and plastic carrier bags.
Wales report reductions of 96% since October 2011
Northern Irish consumers are using 70% less since April 2013
22% more Welsh people are taking their own bag for life to the supermarket to avoid paying the 5p charge.*
(* Figures from WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Group) - Read Carrier Bag Charge Raises Bag for Life Use by 70% for full details.)
How will the Bag Charge Work In England?
Local authorities will provide training to retailers via their trading standards department. Defra have been taking bids from companies that would like to provide this training to the local authorities. Bids closed on 9th January 2015 and we await news of how this training will be provided and when.
Full details of how the bag charge will be applied are yet to be confirmed but we already know that...
1) Only larger retailers with more than 250 employees will be subject to the bag charge. Defra reasons that “an overriding government priority is avoiding the imposition of regulatory requirements on small businesses."
This differs from how the charge works in other nations, where ALL retailers are subject to the bag charge regardless of company size.
2) Biodegradable bags will still incur a 5p charge. Defra report that none of the biodegradable bags currently available in England are actually genuinely biodegradable. However, more work is being done to look into developing a fully biodegradable plastic bag that will be exempt from the charge.
We will keep you updated as we find out more about exemptions to the bag charge. Keep up-to-date with what we already know and find out why the charge is being introduced by reading our blog - The Carrier Bag Charge: How will it work in England?
What does the Bag Charge mean for English Retailers?
As small retailers are exempt, the bag charge means little change for them.
For larger retailers, the Government is drawing up a code of practice outlining how they should collect and account for, revenue generated by the bag charge. Ideally, the money should be passed onto an environmental charity but this is not compulsory. Indeed, the code of practice is just a guideline too. Nobody has clarified if there are any penalties for retailers if they do not follow the guidelines or donate the money to charity.
If England follows the pattern of the other nations, then we can expect to see the number of single-use carrier bags taken from supermarkets to fall dramatically. Perhaps not as much as the other nations as the bag charge will not apply to small retailers, but it should still be a significant shift in numbers.
We can also expect more shoppers to bring their own Bag for Life with them when shopping for groceries and household goods. This provides a sales, marketing & branding opportunity for retailers. They can create their own branded bag for life which can act as a moving advert or even sell as a way to generate revenue. Read The Plastic Bag Charge: 4 Sales & Marketing Opportunities for Retailers
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Source & Further Reading
Smartbags - Carrier Bag Levy Blogs