The Charge For Plastic Bags in England

29th September 2015

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As of October 5th 2015 there will be a minimum 5p charge for plastic carrier bags in all large retailers as a part of the government’s policy to reduce waste in the country. The guidelines state that any retailer with over 250 total full time employees must invoke the charge, which counts for unsealed plastic bags which were previously unused, have handles and are 70 microns thick or less. Smaller retailers do not have to charge the 5p but can choose to do so. Full details can be found on the government’s website.


What this means for retailers is that they will have to start charging (as per the guidelines above) and they can also offer customers reusable bags which have to also incur a minimum 5p charge and be thicker than the single use bags available. For home deliveries, retailers are being advised to offer a bagless option, something that some companies already do. Retailers will be required to submit records to Defra detailing how many bags have been supplied, what was done with the proceeds, reasonable costs incurred such as changing till systems and other details of the impact of the charge.

Some retailers have announced plans to give the proceeds raised from the minimum 5p charge to charities, and we have told you previously about ways in which waste can help charities so we think this is a great option for managers  to consider. There is likely to be a mixed reaction from customers regarding the charge so knowing that they are raising money for good causes may ease the ill feeling that some may have whilst others will be happy knowing that the end result of these changes is the intent that far fewer plastic bags end up in landfill, or even worse in our natural areas and waterways.

The government is looking at the idea of making biodegradable bags exempt from this tax but as things stand that is not the case, so as a customer it’s worth remembering your bags for life every time you go shopping. If you think you’ll forget then you could opt to simply have a compact foldable bag or two to keep in your car or handbag at all times.

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