Increasing plastic bag price to 10p is welcomed
Doubling the price of plastic shopping bags to 10p next April is a step in the right direction, says a Midlands green energy expert.
Ron Fox was commenting on a Government decision to also extend the move to all shops, including takeaways, markets and airport duty-free stores. Previously, retailers with fewer than 250 staff had been exempt, even though they supplied about 3.6 billion single-use bags annually.
“This is a very simple but effective ways to cut plastic pollution,” said Ron Fox of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park. “Since the fee was introduced in England in 2015, an estimated 15 billion bags have been taken out of circulation, reducing hugely plastic waste in landfill and on beaches and in the sea which caused severe damage to wildlife.”
In 2014, 7.6 billion bags were given away to customers at England’s seven largest supermarkets, the equivalent of 140 for every member of the population. Between 2017 and 2018 just over a billion bags were sold at major supermarkets across the UK, the equivalent to 19 bags per person.
The system was introduced first in Wales in 2011, then in Northern Ireland in 2013, before Scotland introduced the charge for all carrier bags in 2014, and England introduced its plastic bag charge on 5 October 2015.
Ron said: “This is a good move but the Government should do more, such as bringing in charges on all single-use, throwaway items like takeaway cups.”
But the Environment Secretary George Eustice said the 5p campaign should be seen alongside other measures such as the ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in England.
Ron added that another benefit of the plastic bag charge was that the Government expected retailers to give the proceeds to good causes, and according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) an estimated £51m was donated in 2017-18.
But the green expert pointed out this was not compulsory and some retailers chose to keep the money or to give only some of it away. They are allowed to deduct “reasonable costs” such as the price of changing till systems, training staff and other administrative charges, but not the price of the bags.
And he added that the 5p plastic-bag charge includes VAT – money that goes straight to government.
Retailers have to keep a record of the number of plastic bags sold and their proceeds. Failure to comply can lead to fines of up to £20,000.
To check local authorities can send inspectors into shops to carry out “secret shopper” exercises.
Ron said he was pleased to note that a public consultation in England last year showed that the “vast majority” wanted to raise the bag fee to try and reduce further the plastic used by consumers.
But he concluded: “If the Government is increasing costs for shoppers why are ministers not doing the same for the companies that are responsible for the escalating volumes of single-use plastic packaging in the first place?”
For more information about green energy call Ron on 0845 474 6641.