England brings in plastic bag charge

Supermarket shoppers will have to pay 5p for single-use carrier bags from today under a new law introduced to stem litter and help wildlife.


In England Marks and Spencer have been charging 5p for larger, stronger bags since 2007 and have seen a 50 per cent reduction in the bags used across its food and drink ranges.

Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco offer bagless delivery or a 40p flat rate regardless of the number of bags. However, if another item is put in the same bag, the charge applies.

Smaller shops and retailers will not have to impose the minimum 5p charge and paper bags will also continue to be handed out for free.

The same is true for uncooked meat and fish, prescription medication, takeaway food, unwrapped blades, and even live aquatic animals in water.

Forty-two per cent of those surveyed said they should’ve, while the remaining 58% agreed that the government was right to keep them exempt from the charge.

Do you the five pence charge is a good idea? It is the responsibility of cashiers to decide if the bag “qualifies” before charging.

Free plastic bags have been banned in Ireland for over 12 years.

There are, however, a number of exemptions to the charge.

A spokesman said: “Plastic bags are one of the most highly visible forms of litter on our streets, roads, hedges, parks, trees, beaches and, ultimately, in our oceans, all with potentially devastating effects”. Meanwhile, The Independent predicts “arguments at the checkout” as shoppers and cashiers are left baffled by the rules.

For each 5p charge, 0.83p goes to the Treasury in Value-Added Tax. The government estimates that more than £70m a year – and the lion’s share generated by supermarkets – will be raised for good causes across England.

Small retailers are not obliged to charge but can do so on a voluntary basis.

How many plastic bags do we use?

The new charge on plastic bags in England has been planned for several months, yet the 5p levy is still expected to take thousands of shoppers by surprise. That’s roughly 140 bags per person, equivalent to 61,000 tonnes.


Klara Kozlov, head of corporate clients at the charities aid foundation, said: “It is great to see that retailers in England look set to follow the lead of supermarkets and big shops in Wales and Scotland”.

A shopper pushes a trolley full of Tesco plastic bags at Tesco supermarket in Ashby de la Zouch Leicestershire. PA Wire  Press Association Images