Government starts consultation to increase plastic bag charge, extend to all retailers

Photo by Waitrose Consultation could see cost of plastic bags increase to 10p

The UK government has launched a consultation to extend the 5p plastic bag charge to all retailers and increase the fee to 10p.

The plan, announced 27 Dec, follows the successful introduction of the 5p charge for plastic bags in 2015, which has seen single use plastic bag sales in major supermarkets drop by 86%.

The 5p charge thus far applied to big business only. But under the new plan, introduced by the environment secretary Michael Gove, the charge will now apply to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which are estimated to supply over 3.6 billion single-use plastic bags annually.

“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,” said Gove launching the consultation on 27 Dec.

As Micheal Gove targeted “further behaviour changes” with his new plan, education secretary Damian Hinds also announced on 27 Dec a crackdown on single-use plastics, urging all schools to eliminate their use of single use plastics by 2022.

The two announcements are the latest in a series of attempts by the UK government to up its environmental game and crack down on plastic wastes over the past year.

Earlier in December, the UK unveiled its new Resource and Waste Strategy which covered a range of measures to eliminate “all avoidable plastic waste”.  Such measures include a consultation on banning single-use plastic items such as straws, stirrers and cotton buds and introducing a “producer responsibility” principle which will see businesses and manufacturers paying the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste.

On a similar note, the UK government has also launched a consultation on a deposit return scheme for all beverage containers, and announced a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content from April 2022.