Singe-Use Bag Price Set to Double in England
Sep 22 2020 Read 703 Times
The government has announced plans to double the charge for single-use plastic bags in England from April next year. At the same time, it will also remove the exemption for smaller shops on imposing the levy as it continues its efforts to curb Britain’s highly polluting plastic habit.
The 5p charge for plastic bags in supermarkets and other large stores came into effect in England in October 2015 after successful initiatives in other parts of the UK. Since its introduction, the purchase of single-use plastic bags has fallen in supermarkets by a whopping 95%, demonstrating the effectiveness of the scheme. However, the government is keen to build on that platform by going even further and clamping down on the use of plastic bags in smaller shops, too.
A serious problem
Prior to the imposition of the levy five years ago, England’s plastic bag addiction was out of control. The total number of single-use plastic bags given out for free by the country’s top seven supermarkets had risen by a cumulative 200 million in 2014, meaning that English consumers were using (and presumably discarding) 7.6 billion bags every year.
That amounted to around 61,000 tonnes of plastic waste, the vast majority of which was not recycled and ended up in landfill, or worse, the sea. Once there, the bags have a tendency to break down into even more dangerous microplastics, which are small enough that they can be mistaken for food by fish and other marine mammals, causing serious damage to their internal organs and disrupting the food chain.
The scientific community has long been investigating solutions to the rampant plastic pollution problem which plagues our seas and oceans, including such innovative ideas as the combination of artificial intelligence and forensic science to tackle the issue. However, preventing the bags from entering our waterways is far preferable from trying to fish them out after the fact.
For that reason, the British government made it mandatory for all stores employing more than 250 people to charge 5p for every plastic bag they distributed to the English public in October 2015. Consumption rates fell dramatically, indicating the success of the measure. From April 2021, it will be extended across all stores, not just those employing hundreds of people, and will also double to 10p.
Not far enough?
Despite the announcement, some parties were not convinced that the measures went far enough. For example, campaigners say that while charging consumers is a step in the right direction, the government should do more to make the plastic manufacturers themselves accountable for the pollution they create, as well.
“The government should be setting legally binding targets now for retailers to reduce single-use plastics by 50% by 2025,” explained Sam Chetan-Welsh, an activist for Greenpeace. “And it should be working to make sure the big-brand plastic producers take responsibility for disposing of their waste. If they’re increasing costs for shoppers, ministers really have no excuse not to increase the costs for the companies that are responsible for the escalating volumes of single-use plastic packaging in the first place.”
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