The plastic bag charge is finally in England!
England has now joined Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with introducing a 5p charge for each single-use plastic carrier bag provided in stores.
For Wales, the levy introduced in 2011 resulted in a whopping 70% reduction in plastic bag use – Northern Ireland’s 2013 introduction reported a drop of 72%, and in the 6 months following Scotland’s introduction in 2014, an incredible 80% less plastic carrier bags have been used.
So why charge?
Firstly, data collected by WRAP shows that plastic carrier bag use has been increasing for the last 4 years. In England, the number of plastic bags handed out by supermarkets in 2014 rose to 7.64 billion – 200 million more than in 2013.
Secondly, there is increasing scientific evidence that plastic has reached almost everywhere in our world, including the Arctic Sea ice. Detrimental effects of plastic are reported for an increasing wide-variety of animal species.
Thirdly, considerable evidence suggests that we cannot use all of the world’s known oil reserves without severely impacting our planet. As plastic is made from oil, by reusing plastic bags we decrease the demand for oil (although the proportion of oil use for plastic bags is small, it still equates to ~ 12 million barrels of oil per year for America alone).
Fourthly, levy’s drive positive behaviour change that encourages people to sustain commitment to small changes in habits.
And what’s the aim of the charge?
It is expected that a comparable drop in plastic bag use will be seen in England as reported for the rest of the UK – which would make an incredible difference to our economy and our environment.
The Government expects savings to English councils, shops and the economy to be over £800 million a year.
100% of the money you pay for the plastic carrier bag goes to the shops (not the Government, as this levy is not a tax), with retailers expected to donate the money to charitable causes. As a result of the Welsh charge, up to £22 million has been raised for charities and other good causes. Retailers will have to report where the money goes each year to the Government.
Check out #reusebags, the Government’s twitter hashtag for the policy change to follow updates: