England to introduce 5p plastic bag charge
England is to follow the examples of Ireland, Wales and Switzerland by introducing a small mandatory charge for single-use carrier bags, from the autumn of 2015, to reduce litter and landfill waste.
Deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, made the announcement at the Liberal Democrat party conference last month. The charge will be five pence per bag.
Similar charges in Ireland, Wales and Switzerland have led to significant reductions in the number of carrier bags being issued.
In Northern Ireland, a proposal to raise the existing levy to 10 pence per bag was rejected last month because current arrangements have already proved to be effective.
There has been an 80 per cent fall in plastic bag use since the five pence rate was brought in, whilst in Wales, where a charge was introduced in 2011, usage has fallen by about 75 per cent.
Last year in England, over seven billion carrier bags were handed out by supermarkets and most were thrown away after being used for just a few minutes. They can then take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.
The Government also believes that too many plastic bags end up littering streets and rivers, posing a threat to wildlife and costing tax payers millions of pounds in clearance costs.
‘Follow the lead’
Mr Clegg said: “Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside. They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals.
“This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now. The charge will be implemented sensibly - small businesses will be exempt.”
Under the new rules, businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be exempt from the charge, to ensure that they are not disproportionately burdened.
Mr Clegg added: “We will discuss with retailers how the money raised should be spent but I call on them to follow the lead of industry in Wales and donate the proceeds to charity.”
Some retailers already charge customers for plastic bags. For example, Marks & Spencer charges five pence per standard bag and donates the profits to charities and educational projects, but smaller bags are still available free of charge.
Other supermarkets encourage customers to limit their use of carrier bags by awarding loyalty points for bringing their own.
Environment minister, Lord de Mauley, also said: “We have all seen the effects of discarded plastic bags caught in trees and hedges or ending up in rivers where they harm animals.
“Introducing a small charge for plastic bags will make people think twice before throwing them away.
“Year on year, the number of bags issued by retailers has been rising. Without a charge, the problem could escalate out of control and see our environment and animals suffer enormously.”
A similar charge for non-biodegradable bags is due to come into force in Scotland next October.
Businesses will also be encouraged to bring biodegradable plastic bags to the market in England, and if the bags meet certain criteria they will be exempt from the charge as well.
A new high street standard for such bags will be developed with manufacturers.
Posted under General Interest on 5 October 2013