The UK’s ban on single-use plastic shopping bags has been incredibly successful. Millions of pounds have been raised for good causes, eco-friendly bagging options have exploded in popularity, and people across the country have drastically cut back on using single-use plastic bags.
As such, it might come as no surprise to learn that the government is thinking about expanding the program. Since 2015, major stores have imposed a 5p fee on every single-use plastic bag. In the future, that could increase to a minimum charge of 10p, and the ban could be extended to small and medium-sized retailers with fewer than 250 employees.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs will be running a consultation over eight weeks to explore the effects of such a ban. It has been estimated that the current 5p charge has cut plastic bag use by 86% in major supermarkets, and it is hoped that a higher fee will cut down use even further.
If that happens, the new changes will be expected to come into force in January 2020. When the fee goes up, it should be extended to all retailers.
At present, only those with at least 250 employees are affected. Government figures indicate that trade bodies representing around 40,000 small retailers have signed up for the 5p fee already, but that only covers a small percentage of the 253,000 small or medium-sized retailers in England. It has been estimated that those smaller retailers account for roughly 3.6 billion single-use plastic bags each year. Extending the charge to cover small retailers would bring England up to date with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, where the charge already applies regardless of shop size.
During 2017/18, government figures show more than £51 million raised by the charge and donated to good causes, so it makes sense to go further while cutting down on yesterday’s environmentally damaging products.