Break The Bag Habit


A Marine Litter campaign

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Break The Bag Habit

The campaign

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. The Government introduced the charge 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.


Get involved

How can you help with this campaign…

  • SAS, together with our Break The Bag Habit partners are asking you to take the pledge to stop using single-use bags today at Visit website…

Campaign timeline

Key campaign dates


Campaign launched!

In 2012 SAS met with the campaign teams from Keep Britain Tidy, The Marine Conservation Society and the Campaign To Protect Rural England to discuss how our organisations could collaborate on introducing a bag charge for single-use bags across the UK.


Break The Bag Habit write to the Secretary of State for the Environment

One of the first  Break The Bag Habit Coalition actions was to write to Caroline Spelman, then the Secretary of State for the Environment, making the environmental case for a bag charge across the UK.


Scottish consultation on a bag charge

SAS submit our position, supporting a bag charge in Scotland.


Break The Bag Habit supporters lobby MPs to support bag charge

Thousand of supporters contact their MPs, calling on them to support the introduction of a bag charge for the UK.


Break The Bag Habit coalition contact the big supermarket chains

The Break The Bag Habit coalition write to the big supermarket chains calling on them to voluntarily introduce a charge for the billions of single-use bags they give out at check outs.

These bags aren’t really free, the cost is passed onto the consumer elsewhere.


Bag Monsters decent upon the Conservative Party Conference

SAS Bag Monsters are joined by Zac Goldsmith MP and our monster mates from the coalition, highlighting the need for the bag charge at the Conservative Party Conference.


New poll shows strong public support for bag charge

New polling finds that, even in difficult economic times, the English public is ready and willing to support a small charge on carrier bags to cut litter.


Break The Bag Habit coalition expands

We welcome Thames 21 and Green-upon-Thames to the Break The Bag Habit coalition.


Northern Ireland Assembly introduces bag charge!

CAMPAIGN SUCCESS!  The Northern Ireland Assembly followed the positive examples set out in Wales and Ireland by introducing a 5p charge for single-use bags.  The charge was introduced in April 2013.


Break The Bag Habit Chief Execs meets new Secretary of State for the Environment

Chef Execs from the Break The Bag Habit coalition meet with Lord De Mauley to discuss introducing the bag charge in England.


Environmental Audit Committee on bag charge

SAS welcome the opportunity to feed into the Environmental Audit Committee bag charge consultation.


Government Announces English Bag Charge

CAMPAIGN SUCCESS!  Nick Clegg announces the bag charge will come in for England at eh Liberal Democrat’s Party Conference.


Break The Bag Habit pledge website

SAS create the Break The Bag Habit website to capture online pledges from supporters refusing single-use bags at the check out.

SAS teamed up with award winning artist Martin Brent to release the Killer Bags images on the new Break The Bag Habit pledge site.


Hundreds of thousands of bags offset

CAMPAIGN SUCCESS!  The new Break The Bag Habit pledge site captures supporters pledges to refuse hundreds of thousands of single-use bags at check outs around the UK.

The  website wins the Lovies Award for best charity website.

The Killer bags images won various awards including the Communication Arts award, PDN New York Photography and were shortlisted in the Sony World Photography Awards and received an honourable mention in the IPA Lucies.


Bag Charge in the Queen's Speech

CAMPAIGN SUCCESS!  The bag charge features in the Queen’s Speech and will be transposed into law after the 2015 general election.


Government Attempts To Undermine Bag Charge Legislation

The various caveats and exemptions inserted into the bag charge legislation threatens to undermine the effectiveness of the charge and cause confusion on the high street.

The Break The Bag Habit coalition continue to lobby the Government and work with SME associations.  Supportive MPs continue to question the Government’s strategy in Parliament.  And supporters continue to call for a stronger bag charge in England, following the successful examples in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.