New rules designed to reduce the number of plastic bags littering streets or ending up in landfill sites come into force next month. Legislation which takes effect from 5th October means that supermarkets and other large retailers in England will be required to charge shoppers 5p for every plastic carrier bag they hand out.

It is estimated that 8 billion single-use carrier bags are used in the UK each year. This works out at about 130 bags per person and is the equivalent of 57,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year.

Any retailer employing 250 members of staff or more will have to comply with the legislation which also requires them to give the money raised by this charge (minus reasonable costs) to good causes. In Scotland the 5p charge was imposed a year ago resulting in an 80% reduction in the number of plastic carriers used by shoppers with similar reductions .

Patricia Howell from SusKes comments “This legislation is long overdue. Obviously discarded plastic bags are a very visible form of litter and can cause injury to wildlife. Moreover their production consumes valuable resources including oil. Even if they are disposed of responsibly most bags persist for long periods of time in landfill”.

She adds “It's not difficult to get into the habit of always taking cloth bags, baskets or “bags for life” etc whenever you go shopping. In SusKes we feel that the 5p charge is too low: 10 or even 20p would provide a better incentive to comply. Also it is disappointing that only large retailers are affected by this new legislation in England, whereas all retailers in Scotland and Wales have to comply. We feel strongly that smaller businesses should somehow be encouraged to reduce their usage of plastic bags.”

Patricia Howell

Keswick Reminder, September 2015