10 Penny plastic bag charge to come into force in England on May 21

  • Single-use carrier bag charge will increase from 5p to 10p in England from May 21
  • Under the extension, all stores will have to apply the charge. Previously only retailers with 250 employees or more had to.
  • 73 % of consumers supported the levy

By guest author Elias Jahshan from Retail Gazette

The single-use carrier bag charge will increase from 5p to 10p and extend to all retailers in England from May 21, the government has confirmed.

Under the extension, all stores, including corner shops and small retailers, will have to apply the charge.

Previously only retailers with 250 employees or more had to charge per bag and smaller shops could chose to do so voluntarily.

The 5p levy on plastic bags was introduced in England in 2015, with the most recent figures showing that the number of single-use bags distributed by large supermarkets has fallen more than 95 %.

The average person in England now buys just four single-use bags a year, compared to around 140 in 2014.

A survey in December for waste and resources body Wrap found 73 % of consumers supported the levy.

However, the same poll found that 26 % of consumers still buy single-use bags at the till when shopping for food.

By extending the charge to all retailers, it is expected that the use of single-use carrier bags will decrease by 70 % to 80 % in small and medium-sized businesses, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

“The introduction of the 5p charge has been a phenomenal success, driving down sales of harmful plastic bags in supermarkets by a remarkable 95 %,” environment minister Rebecca Pow said.

“We know we must go further to protect our natural environment and oceans, which is why we are now extending this charge to all businesses.

“Over the next couple of weeks I urge all retailers of all sizes to make sure they are ready for the changes, as we work together to build back greener and strengthen our world-leading action to combat the scourge of plastic waste.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “We strongly welcome the inclusion of local shops and other small businesses into the successful plastic bag charging scheme, which not only helps the environment, but is also a great way for retailers to raise money for local and national charities.”

WWF sustainable materials specialist Paula Chin said: “Plastic pollution is one of the most visible symptoms of the environmental crisis, damaging natural habitats and putting precious wildlife at risk.

“Measures to reduce plastics consumption need to go much further. The UK Government must consider a complete ban on single-use bags and make sure this is not undermined by the sale of ‘bags for life’, which are currently cheaply available and all too often end up as single-use items.”

Greenpeace’s Sam Chetan-Welsh said: “The government is still tinkering at the edges of the plastic pollution crisis.

“Real action on bags wouldinclude phasing out the billion-and-a-half heavy-duty ‘bags for life’ used in the UK each year.”

“While the Government avoids legislation to reduce single-use plastic and delays acting on promises, like delivering a bottle return scheme, their claims to be a world-leader on tackling plastic pollution ring hollow.”

John Lewis said it was trialling the removal of single-use bags from its Cheltenham, Kingston and Leeds stores from May 21.

Customers will be asked to bring their own bags or buy a reusable bag made from 100 per cent recyclable material costing 50p for a medium size and 75p for a large size.

John Lewis Partnership sustainability director Marija Rompani said: “It has become the norm to take our own bags when we go food shopping but we have a different mindset when shopping for clothes, beauty and home products.

“We expect our customers will be supportive of this change and will be listening to their feedback.”

Icaro surveyed 2010 adults in England for Wrap in December.