UK Moves To Further Cut Use Of Plastic Carrier Bags

The UK is to consider doubling the 5p plastic bag charge to 10p, and extend it to all retailers in order to cut their use further, under plans put forward in a consultation launched by Environment Secretary Micheal Gove this week.

Currently, the 5p charge applies only to big businesses, but it is estimated over 3.6 billion single-use plastic bags are supplied annually by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Trade bodies representing around 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5p charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England’s estimated 253,000 SMEs.

The 5p single use plastic carrier bag charge has been extremely successful in reducing the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives. Between us, we have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation. But we want to do even more to protect our precious planet and today’s announcement will accelerate further behaviour change and build on the success of the existing charge.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove

Plastic bags have a significant impact on the environment. Scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed - with one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals dying every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

The move follows the success of the 5p charge introduced in 2015, which has seen single use plastic bag sales in major supermarkets drop by 86%. 

This is equivalent to just 19 bags in 2017/18 per person in England, compared with 140 bags each before the government introduced the charge.

Smaller stores are often at the heart of a local community providing a range of essential services to local people, and will be encouraged to donate proceeds to good causes. Latest figures show that for 2017/18 5p plastic bag sales contributed over £51m toward charities and other good causes.

Today’s announcement is the latest move in a government crackdown on plastic, with the UK continuing to be a global leader in protecting seas, oceans and marine life. On the same day, UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds urged all schools to eliminate their use of single use plastics by 2022.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today. 

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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