Wales’ single use bag levy heralds a first for the UK
On 1 October 2011, Wales becomes the first UK country to introduce a charge for single use carrier bags. The levy covers all types of single use carrier bag – plastic, paper and plant-based starch – and the minimum charge will be of five pence per bag.
MCS has been instrumental in persuading the Welsh Government to take this step, after we gave evidence to the Environment and Sustainability Committee on the damage plastic bags can do to wildlife in the marine environment. Over 170 species of marine wildlife have been recorded as mistaking marine litter for food, resulting in starvation, poisoning and fatal stomach blockages.
An estimated 350 million free single use carrier bags were used in Wales in 2009, and MCS wants that figure to reduce substantially, to reduce their environmental impact and conserve natural resources.
As the charge in Wales is not a tax, the money will not be going to the Welsh Government, and will instead be collected by retailers. MCS hopes that retailers will pass on the net proceeds of this levy to good causes in Wales, particularly environmental projects.
“Now that Wales has set the precedent for the UK, we would urge the other three home nations to follow suit. Northern Ireland has already issued a plastic bag consultation, and we are pushing for the Scottish and UK Governments to issue similar consultations” says Gill Bell, MCS Welsh Programme Manager.
The MCS ‘Go Plastic Bag Free’ campaign has been well received in Wales, with Hay-on-Wye becoming the first town in Wales, and only the third in Europe, to ditch plastic bags in 2008. Another 16 towns are all considering the option. Others include Chepstow, Porthcawl, Newcastle Emlyn, Llangollen, Abergavenny, Newport, Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Llandysilio, Milford Haven, Tenby, Crickhowell, Newtown, Llanidloes, Penygraig and Williamstown, and Cowbridge.