The UK government could be about to increase the five pence plastic bag charge in England to 10 pence, as well as extending the charge to all shops regardless of size, subject to a consultation.
Currently, the five pence plastic bag charge – launched in England in 2015 following its introduction in Wales in 2011, Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014 – only applies to retailers employing more than 250 people. However, it is estimated that more than three billion plastic bags are supplied by small and medium businesses (SMEs) annually, representing a significant waste stream not captured by the charge.
Since the introduction of the plastic bag charge in 2015, significant reductions in usage have been achieved. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), there has been an 86 per cent fall in disposable bags issued since 2015, while the average number of bags issued annually per person by the main supermarkets has fallen from 140 each in 2014 to 19 bags in 2017/18. In the last two years, some 13 billion plastic bags have been taken out of circulation.
While the government is committed to increasing the charge and extending it to all retailers, the policy will still be subject to a consultation, which will be launched later this year.