Single use plastic bags charge increases to 10p

Melanie May | 6 April 2021 | News

The single use plastic carrier bags charge in the UK has risen from 5p to 10p as of 1 April, with small retailers no longer exempt.

The charge was introduced for large retailers (those with over 250 employees) in England in 2015, with the expectation that the money goes to good causes.

While the increase from 5p to 10p plus the new inclusion of smaller retailers, means more money could reach good causes, the amount the scheme has delivered to charities has dropped steadily since its introduction as a steadily decreasing number of people have requested single use plastic carrier bags for their shopping.

The pandemic has also seen less money donated with the charge suspended for bags used in online grocery deliveries (and in some cases collections) for a number of months in England, as well as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and many non-essential retailers forced to close.

According to government figures, and based on information submitted by retailers, in 2019-2020, 564 million single use plastic carrier bags were reported sold (equating to 10 per person), with £9.2 million donated to good causes. This is around half the number of bags reported sold the previous year (1.11bn in 2018-19), and over a 50% decrease in the amount donated (£22.9m in 2018-19) although the government states that the figures are not directly comparable due to changes in the retailers submitting this information.

In comparison, its figures show, back in 2016-17, 2.12 billion single use carrier bags were reported sold (38 per person), and £65.4m donated to good causes.

The main retailers (Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose) sold 226 million single use plastic carrier bags in England in 2019 to 2020, compared to 549 million in 2018 to 2019 – a drop of 59%. These retailers account for around 40% of the total bags reported by all retailers for 2019 to 2020.

The single use plastic bags charge has also risen to 10p in Scotland as of 1 April, and currently remains at 5p in Wales.

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