English plastic bag charge
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published an analysis on the single-use carrier bag charge in England in the first six months since the charge was introduced. On 5 October 2015 a minimum charge of 5p was introduced on single-use carrier bags supplied by large shops in England.
Since then single-use carrier bags are no longer given away free when buying goods from large shops. Shoppers who bring their own bags or use thicker, reusable ‘bags for life’ do not need to pay the charge.
The charge has dramatically reduced the number of plastic carrier bags used in England. The seven main retailers in England who together accounted for 61% of the single-use carrier bags sold around 0.6 billion single-use carrier bags. Previous data collected for the same retailers in 2014 recorded that 7.6 billion single-use carrier bags were used during the period. Even taking into account that the latest figures are only for six months, the changes are very significant and has already significantly reduced the environmental impact of plastic carrier bags.
The government also expected the proceeds of the charge to help fund good causes in England. The figures published by DEFRA show that to date at least £29.2 million has been donated to good causes. There are some exemptions on the requirement to charge based on location, bag size, items being carried and for specialist bags. Additionally there are no charges for paper bags.