Plastic bag charge begins: But why are some small businesses angry?

And why is the ban good news for charities and the environment?

Plastic Bag walking man

The sun is setting on free placcy-bags in England

The long overdue measure to introduce a 5p charge for a plastic bag in a supermarket begins in England today, bringing the UK’s largest country up to speed with its fellow nations.

In 2014, it is estimated that 7.6 billion plastic bags were given out free of charge by the England’s largest supermarkets, which equates to roughly 61,000 tonnes of plastic, or 140 bags per person. We are a nation of bag hoarders.

Bag of the net

In Wales, where the bag charge has been in place since October 2011, the number of bags being taken at the supermarket tills fell by 79% once they had to be paid for.

Nine in 10 Welsh retailers have reported the plastic bag charge hasn’t impacted their trade.

Bag for business?

But the charge will be implemented less stringently in England than in other parts of the UK, and not all retailers will have to charge for bags.

Those companies employing less than 250 people will still be able to give away plastic bags for free.

This has actually angered many small retailers and business groups.

The British Retail Consortium’s Alice Ellison said that the charge “leaves retailers with complex messages to communicate to shoppers, such as why some stores and some bags are exempt from the charge and why these exemptions do not exist elsewhere in the UK”.

Chris Noice, spokesman for the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), said that the 250 employee rule would confuse businesses and consumers, and that local shops will be prevented from helping communities.

Speaking to news website BusinessGreen, Noice said: “We don’t agree with the exemption. The proceeds from the charge go to charities and our experience in Wales is that retailers have been able to raise money, do more local engagement and be part of the community. We want shops in England to have that same opportunity.”

Bag to the future: What will the charge mean for charities and the environment?

The good people at have analysed data from the Welsh government’s study on the effects of bag charges, and also looked at the charity WRAP’s information and statistics from the website to create this beautiful infographic:

bag charge infographic


Now read


Readers' comments (1)

  • Nothing like biased reporting again!

    This is a case of all of us being punished due to the irresponsible minority who don't take care. The real answer was to have heavier fines/community service punishments for those who illegal dispose of waste including plastic bags. Instead we get an enforced charity tax, who are rapidly becoming the 'New Bankers' in the way they work and waste money.

    Probably the liberal idiots who prevented the shops allowing us to re-use cardboard boxes for carrying the shopping home in on safety grounds are behind this as well.

    Perhaps I would have more sympathy if the over packaging that's rampant in marketing today was stopped - till then its another victory for the mindless cuddly liberal idiots!

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