UK government launches 10p plastic bag consultation after success of 5p scheme

UK government launches 10p plastic bag consultation after success of 5p scheme

02 Jan 2019 --- The UK government has launched a consultation to increase the 5p plastic bag charge to 10p and extend the scheme to all retailers. The move comes as part of Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s strategy to reduce single-use plastic waste and transform throwaway culture.

Plastic bags have a significant impact on the environment. UK government scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed, with one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals dying every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

Currently, the 5p charge applies only to big businesses, but it is estimated that over 3.6 billion single-use plastic bags are supplied annually by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Trade bodies representing around 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5p charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England’s estimated 253,000 SMEs.

“The 5p single-use plastic carrier bag charge has been extremely successful in reducing the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives,” comments Gove. “Between us, we have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation.”

“But we want to do even more to protect our precious planet and today’s announcement will accelerate further behavior change and build on the success of the existing charge,” he says.

“We welcome the government’s plans to extend carrier bag charging to all shops,” adds Association of Convenience Stores Chief Executive, James Lowman. “This has been shown to be highly effective at reducing waste, whilst also raising money for local, national and environmental charities. Around half of small shops in England already charge for plastic bags voluntarily, with wider support for a mandatory charge.”

The move follows the success of the 5p charge introduced in 2015, which has seen single use plastic bag sales in major supermarkets drop by 86 percent. This is equivalent to just 19 bags in 2017/18 per person in England, compared with 140 bags each before the government introduced the charge.

Smaller stores are often at the heart of a local community, providing a range of essential services to local people, and will be encouraged to donate proceeds to good causes. Latest figures show that for 2017/18 5p plastic bag sales contributed over £51 million (US$64.30 million) toward charities and other good causes, according to the UK government.

Today’s announcement is the latest move in a government crackdown on plastic, with the UK aiming to be a global leader in protecting seas, oceans and marine life. Recently, Education Secretary Damian Hinds urged all schools to eliminate their use of single-use plastics by 2022.

The government has recently announced a range of measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste underpinned by the landmark Resources and Waste Strategy launched earlier this month. Other key government actions announced over the past 12 months include a ban on microbeads, a consultation on restricting the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and plans for a deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates of drinks bottles and cans subject to consultation, set for launch in 2023.

At the Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced a tax on plastic packaging which does not contain a minimum of 30 percent recycled content, subject to consultation, from April 2022. Meanwhile, manufacturers will have to foot the bill for recycling or the disposal of their own waste as part of UK government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

In related news, following months of negotiations, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU have reached a provisional agreement on ambitious new single-use plastic measures proposed in May, and identified the 10 types of single-use plastics that will be banned under the EU’s Plastics Strategy. 

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