New charge for carrier bags from today!
As from today a minimum charge of 5p for plastic bags comes into effect in England for supermarkets and major retailers.
Last year about 8.5 billion single-use plastic bags were taken home by UK shoppers last year with 7.64 billion of those in England.
Scotland and Wales already pay for their bags and the use of plastic bags has dramatically reduced in those places since the charges were introduced..
The main idea behind the charge is to reduce waste, litter and other harmful effects on the environment. The bags take many, many years to decompose and the litter they create can cause problems to aquatic life and animals and birds as well as creating an unsightly mess.
It applies to all types of retailers (with over 250 employees) and not just supermarkets and covers most ‘single use thin plastic bags or those which are over 70 microns.
Standard supermarket bags are about 17-23 microns, while those from high-street clothing retailers are about 50-70 microns.
There are some exceptions for when you will not pay a charge and these are generally for health and safety reasons:
Uncooked fish, meat and poultry
Unwrapped loose seeds and flowers
But……. If you add another item to the bag which is not exempt then you will have to pay for it!
Smaller independent shops do not have to charge 5p but many of them plan to charge anyway.
Most plastic Bags for Life from supermarkets are still below the 70 microns threshold, at between 50 and 70 microns and therefor will incur a charge. They will not be counted as part of the single use levy as they are intended for multiple use and will be replaced free of charge by the retailers.
What about home deliveries?
Defra has told retailers they should consider offering bagless deliveries. If they don’t, or the customer doesn’t go for the bagless option, they will either be charged 5p per bag, or charged for an average number of bags – since the exact number may not be known at the time the order is placed.
What will happen to the money from the new charges?
Of every 5p, 0.83p goes to the Treasury in VAT. Retailers are also then allowed to take ‘reasonable costs’ – such as the costs of administering the new system, but not the costs of the bag itself.
The Government has told retailers they should donate the proceeds to good causes such as charities. They cannot be forced to do this but there will be pressure to do this as they will have to publish what they do with the money.
Is there a charge for paper bags?
There are no plans to charge for paper bags, such as those given out by some retailers already.