FOLLOWING the example of Scotland and Wales, it has been announced that a minimum 5p charge on carrier bags will be introduced across England from 2015.
Retailers will be required to charge for single use carrier bags in a move that aims to reduce the number of bags in use as well as the level going to landfill.
Figures from WRAP show that supermarkets in England issued seven billion single use carriers bags in 2012, a rise of 4.4% on 2011; this equates to 11 bags per customer per month.
This is compared to just 1.8 bags per customer per month in Wales, where a mandatory levy on carrier bags was introduced in 2011. Prior to the roll out of the charge it was estimated that Welsh customers were using up to 10 bags each per month.
The charge has been welcomed by many, as it brings England in line with other UK countries but the 2 and a half year delay on implementation of the scheme has been heavily criticised by environmental campaigners.
The scheme has also come under fire from many large retailers and the British Retail Consortium for failing to encompass all retailers; under the plans independent stores and small chains with fewer than 250 employees will not be subject to the charge.
Andrew Opie, the BRC’s director of food and sustainability, said: “It makes no sense. If you believe single-use carrier bags are a problem, it’s exactly the same whether you get them from a corner shop or a supermarket.
“It is really odd and could be confusing for shoppers, with neighbouring shops and even independent department stores exempt. If this is really about the environment why can’t you apply it across the board?”
However, many campaigners are counting the new rule as a victory. Andy Cummins, Campaign Director and spokesperson for Break the Bag Habit, said:
“We are delighted that the government has finally listened to the Break The Bag Habit campaign and the thousands of supporters who’ve written letters and signed petitions calling for this moment.
“Finally the government will help improve the environments we all love so much by implementing a policy that the Break The Bag Habit has shown to be popular with the public and effective in reducing litter.”