5p Bag Charge: Where are we Now?
In October of last year, we covered the introduction of a 5p charge for plastic bags from shops and supermarkets. The aim of the charge was to reduce the use of single use plastic bags, which would hopefully have a positive knock on effect on the environment.
We’ve had quite a bit of time to get used to the 5p bag charge, so we’re taking a look at what impact it has had in the time since its implementation.
Bag usage down
The bag charge looks to have had an immediate effect on the use of single use bags, with stores reporting usage to have dropped by 80%, a figure which remains static. This suggests that the charge has had not only a sudden impact, but a prolonged one. The goal to cut down on single bag usage seems to have been met, with the 5p charge creating a new standard for bag usage across the UK.
This has obviously created extra benefits. With fewer people using bags, there are nowhere near as many bags left strewn around the streets, hedges and waters of England, suggesting people who pay for bags are seemingly much less likely to throw them away.
This is a boon to wildlife, especially wildfowl who can get tangled up in plastic bags and drown. The riversides and canals are much cleaner now, with only the odd unmarked blue and white bags seen on the water’s surface. This saves a huge amount on litter cleanup costs as there are fewer bags to fish out of canals, rivers and lakes.
Charities are benefitting
The bag charge threatened to create uproar in the retail industry, with customers predicted to react badly to the extra charge for something they used to get for free. But shops have managed to put a positive swing on the charge while helping out the needy at the same time. Many retailers have set up agreements with local charities, which sees the proceeds from each bag charge collected as a donation to a certain charity.
Some shops have a rolling charity selection, donating to a different charity each month as a way of spreading the money to as many people as possible. Retailers are not forced to donate the proceeds to good causes, but it is expected. Retailers that openly advertise the fact that a customer’s 5p will be put to good use can expect less resistance from shoppers, who might otherwise be wary of how their money is actually being used.
Retailers do have to report to ministers about where the money has gone, and this information will be published by the government for public consumption each year. This may put more pressure on retailers who have not yet decided to donate the proceeds to charities, but on the whole, charities have seen huge benefits so far. In the first six months of the scheme, leading supermarkets have raised almost £23 million for charities, with other retailers also reporting impressive numbers for the early days of the scheme.
Long term benefits
The benefits of the 5p bag charge have been immediate and impressive. Many local charities have seen improved resources in the short time the charge has been in place, and this looks to continue into the future. After ten years of the scheme, the government hopes that £730 million will have been raised and donated to good causes across all retailers.
With less plastic bags being wasted, the environment looks to have seen a dramatic improvement. Waterways will likely see this sustained and hopefully the unmarked bags seen on riverbanks and in the water itself will decline as time goes on.
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