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War on plastic pollution stepped up with expanded plastic bag charge

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A plastic bag floating in water
The charge has already cut single-use carrier bag sales by 95% in the major supermarkets

The highly successful single-use carrier bag charge has been extended today as the Government steps up its war on plastic pollution.

As reported this morning across broadcast and print media, including by The Sun, BBC News, ITV News, Sky News, The Independent, the Daily Express and the Yorkshire Post, the minimum charge has been doubled to 10p and extended to all retailers, having previously only applied to supermarkets and large retailers.

Before the 5p charge was introduced, the average household used around 140 single-use plastic carrier bags a year, and this has now been reduced to four thanks to a 95% cut in single-use carrier bag sales in the major supermarkets since 2015.

By extending the charge to all retailers, it is anticipated that the use of single-use carrier bags will decrease by 70-80% in small and medium-sized businesses. The move is also expected to benefit the UK economy by over £297 million over the next 10 years.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

Everyone wants to play their part in reducing the scourge of plastic waste that blights our environment and oceans. The 5p bag charge has been hugely successful, but we can go further.

From today we will increase the charge to 10p and extend it to all businesses. This will support the ambitious action we have already taken in our fight against plastic as we build back greener.

We have banned the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, banned microbeads in personal care products, and we are consulting on a new deposit return scheme for drinks containers.

Since the introduction of the charge, almost £180 million has been raised by retailers for good causes from the revenue collected. Last year, from the £9.2 million that was reported, around 30% went to charity, volunteering, environment and health sectors, 49% went to causes chosen by customers or staff and 21% went to a combination of good causes.

In its war against plastic pollution, the Government has already banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and prohibited the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England. A world-leading plastic packaging tax will be introduced from April 2022 for products which do not have at least 30% recycled content, while the Government is currently consulting on landmark reforms which will introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging and consistent recycling collections for homes and businesses.

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  1. Comment by Bethan Jones posted on

    what about removing unnecessary plastic packaging from the many many many food items that are sold! Or making it a legal requirement that such packaging must be compostable or recycled AND recyclable (where relevant)? Fruit and veg does NOT need to be covered in plastic. When are we going to take real action on this? The time is NOW not in 5 years..... SO frustrating.

  2. Comment by William Hughes-Games posted on

    Increasing the charge for plastic bags, outlawing plastic straws and cotton buds and such moves are window dressing, designed to distract the public and convince them that the government is doing something. I assume you have seen the youtube video. If not put in your search box, 'Borris Johnson plastic' to see what the UK is actually doing. Get real and start work on pyrolysis. It not only would take care of every sorts of plastic but a whole range of other waste streams. It would also save the cost of sending the plastic overseas to be burnt and pyrolysis, done properly, is completely pollution free.