Surfers Against Sewage is a founding member of the Break the Bag Habit coalition. The Break the Bag Habit campaign celebrated its inclusion of the single-use bag charge in the Queen’s Speech, 2014. This has resulted in 6 billion fewer bags been given out in the first 12 months after the 5p charge has been introduced by the Government on 1st October, 2015. However, there is still work to be done to address the exemptions for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and paper bags. Surfers Against Sewage is calling for a uniform scheme across business and devolved nations to avoid any confusion and to maximise the benefits for the environment.
Successful and well-supported levies have already been successful introduced in Northern Ireland (2013) and Wales (2011). In Wales, the number of single-use bags issued has fallen by between 70% and 96%, as estimated by retailers. In turn, public support for the Welsh bag levy has grown to 70%. When Ireland introduced a plastic bag levy in 2002, plastic bag use fell by 90%. Before the Irish levy plastic bags made up 5% of visible litter, afterwards it dropped to 0.32%.
Single use bags are one of the UK’s most visually intrusive and damaging litter items blighting our countryside and coast. The 2013 Marine Conservation Society Beachwatch survey recorded over 48 single use plastic bags for every km of beach surveyed. The average person uses 133 bags annually, equating to a staggering 224 bags given out in shops and supermarkets every second. The majority of these bags are plastic and don’t biodegrade, they fragment, into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, over hundreds and thousands of years.