MCS comments on plans to extend carrier bag charge in England

Image: Marine Conservation Society

The 5p plastic bag charge will be extended to all retailers and increased to 10p to cut their use further, under plans put forward in a consultation launched by the Environment Secretary.

Currently, the 5p charge applies only to big businesses, but it is estimated over 3.6 billion single-use plastic bags are supplied annually by small and SMEs. Trade bodies representing around 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5p charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England’s estimated 253,000 SMEs.

The move follows the success of the 5p charge introduced in 2015, which has seen single use plastic bag sales in major supermarkets drop by 86 per cent.

Dr Chris Tuckett, Head of Programmes at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “This is really good news, and we welcome the move to apply a charge to single use carrier bags more widely in England. The charges applied by UK nations have proved a resounding success to date. Our beach litter surveys indicate a reduction in plastic bags ending up on our beaches, while the trend for other plastic items has continued to rise. Between 2011 (when charges began in Wales, followed soon after by Scotland and Northern Ireland) and 2018, we recorded a drop in plastic bag numbers on beaches of 46.6 per cent. Between 2016, when the charge was introduced for England, and 2018 plastic bag numbers were recorded dropping 40.1 per cent on English beaches.”

“This gives clarity for small businesses in England, and is what we recommended for England when a bag charge was originally proposed. We now need to see fiscal measures such as these applied to a whole range of single-use and so-called disposable plastic items to turn the plastic tide. A deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans across the whole of the UK will undoubtedly make a huge dent in the number of bottles and cans we find on our beaches.”