5p plastic bag charge could be extended in England

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 10 January 2018

Theresa May is expected to announce a consultation to extend the 5p carrier bag charge in England when she reveals her 25-year Environment Plan tomorrow, a move MCS sees as needlessly late in the day after successful in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The 5p single-use carrier bag charge had already been introduced in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland by the time it was brought in in England in 2015. But in England, unlike elsewhere, businesses with less than 250 employees were exempt from charging.

This will bring the arrangement in England in line with those in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, begging the question – why wasn’t it done in the first place?

The media is reporting today that one option on the table would be for the charge to be extended on a voluntary basis, which is already the case in many small shops who decided to take on the charge when it came in for large supermarkets and retailers in England in 2015.

It’s worth reiterating that the 5p single-use carrier bag charge had already been introduced in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland by the time it was brought in in England in 2015. But in England, unlike elsewhere, businesses with less than 250 employees were exempt from charging.

Theresa May, told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday that she was considering a levy on plastic beverage bottles in a bid to change the publics’ behaviour.

She said: “People often think about environment issues and wonder whether the government can have an impact on that. If you just look at one thing that we’ve done, in 2015 we introduced the 5p charge on carrier bags, on plastic bags. Actually we now see 9 billion fewer plastic bags being used.”

Which again raises the question why bother to hold consultations to remove an exemption that allows retailers with fewer than 250 employees to continue to give out free bags in England - because it clearly works.

In 2015 the Environmental Audit Committee said the levy in England was a mess because excluding paper bags and small retailers risked confusing consumers and undermining the effectiveness of the levy - a view also held by the Association of Convenience Stores.

MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, Dr Sue Kinsey, says: “For glass and plastic bottles and drinks cans we are calling for a deposit refund system to be put in place which would not only decrease littering but would greatly increase high quality recycling. We also want to see minimum recycled content for plastic products brought in.”

MCS is calling on all UK Governments to put in place a levy on other single-use items such as coffee cups, plastic cutlery, lids and stirrers through our #StopthePlasticTide appeal.

This week Scottish MSP, Kate Forbes, launched a campaign to get plastic drinking straws banned nationwide.

The impacts of ocean plastics is now on an unprecedented scale – they’re a toxic sponge for man-made chemicals, impacting the whole ocean ecosystem.

We want to see levies on single-use throwaway items so please add your name to our petition UK governments today and click on the link below.

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Help us stop the plastic tide
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017

Did you know?…

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

To date, our beach cleans have removed 6 million pieces of litter

We removed 568,000 pieces of litter from our coasts in one year