10p Plastic Bag Charge

  • 25th November 2020

From April 2021 all retailers in England will be required to charge 10p for plastic carrier bags following new legislation from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). At present, plastic bags must cost at least 5p and the rule only applies to retailers with more than 250 employees, following the rule change in April, all retailers must enforce this rule. England is the last country in the UK who will enforce the compulsory carrier bag charge to all retailers, with Wales introducing the rule in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014.

Environmental Secretary George Eustice says the rise in price comes to encourage shoppers to use environmentally friendly bags and to reduce water pollution.

Will this price increase make a difference? Looking at past figures, charging for plastic bags seems to have made a drastic change in the consumption of plastic bags. In 2014 over 7 billion single-use plastic bags were given out by the 7 large supermarkets, compared to 1 billion just 3 years later after the charge was imposed in 2015. While 1 billion is still an enormous number, it is leaps and bounds ahead of what it was, showing that the charge does have an impact.

However, there are arguments that the replacement for single-use plastic bags, “bags for life”, are as just as bad, if not worse than single-use bags since people are using them once before disposing of them. This is arguably worse as they contain more plastic than single-use bags. Campaigners from Greenpeace have spoken up about this and say that “not taking action on bags for life is only looking at one part of the problem,”. Greenpeace have suggested legal targets for retailers to make a 50% plastic reduction between now and 2025, as a way to encourage supermarkets to make change rather than putting the onus on consumers to change their attitude.

More could be done in the move towards a plastic free UK, as Greenpeace has commented, targets should be put in place and all plastics should be addressed. But this is a huge step for the UK. 1st October 2020 marked the prohibition of single-use plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds, which it is estimated contribute to over 5 billion units a year in England alone. So, whilst it isn’t yet perfect, the cogs are turning and the shift to plastic free is in motion.