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.

A new poll, commissioned by the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ coalition [1], has found that well over half of English adults (56 per cent) think it is not unreasonable to charge for carrier bags [2]. Only 25 per cent of respondents disagreed.  TAKE ACTION contact your MP asking them to support the Break The Bag Habit campaign here

Despite the view of some in government that people would be reluctant to face a charge of this kind in difficult economic times, the poll suggests that the public understands the proposed scheme better than Ministers. The charge would only be levied if people did not re-use carrier bags, which many already do.

The poll also found that, if people were asked to pay just 5p for new carrier bags, three quarters of those surveyed (75 per cent) would try to cut down the number of new bags they used [3].

These results reinforce the findings of the Welsh bag charging scheme, which started last October. In the first six months retailers estimate the scheme cut bag use by up to 96 per cent. Since its introduction Welsh public support for the scheme has grown from 59 per cent to 70 per cent [4]. Campaigners believe an English scheme would enjoy the same public support.

In England bag use increased in 2011 by 5.4 per cent, equating to 7.6 billion bags, or 254 bags issued every second [5]. More than half of those questioned (54 per cent) in the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ poll thought that if Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland either had a bag charge in place or were consulting on introducing one, England should have one too [6].

The ‘Break the Bag Habit’ coalition is calling for David Cameron to stand by his 2011 commitment to reassess introducing an English bag charge, in line with the schemes in place in Wales and Northern Ireland, and the subject of current consultation in Scotland [7].

On Sunday the Liberal Democrats will be debating a mention that calls for an English bag charge. Moved by Baroness Parminter, the motion calls for “a levy on plastic bags with the money raised supporting community food initiatives.” [8]

Ask your MP to support the Break The Bag Habit campaign to reduce bag litter NOW!

Download the bag levy factsheet:


  • [1] The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are calling on the Government to reduce litter and waste by requiring retailers to introduce a small levy on all single-use bags. Together they have launched the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ campaign.
  • [2] The Break the bag habit coalition commissioned ICM research to carry out polling between 22– 23 August 2012. The poll consisted of a weighted base of 1752 English adults and was carried out online. To find out more please contact the CPRE press officer of go to:
  • [3] See [2]
  • [4] Welsh Government, Written Statement – ‘An update on the single use carrier bags charge in Wales’, 4 July 2012,
  • [5] WRAP, New figures on carrier bags use, 5 July 2012,
  • [6] See [2]
  • [7] In September 2011 David Cameron said about this issue: “Progress overall went backwards last year, and that is unacceptable. Retailers need to do better. I want to see significant falls again. I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don’t I will be asking them to explain why not.” Daily Mail 29 September 2011,
  • [8] The debate on the motion will take place on Sunday 23 September at 11:40am, until 12:20pm. F15 Good Food Shouldn’t Cost the Earth, Fifteen conference representatives, Mover: Baroness Parminter (Co-Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Parliamentary Party Committee), Summation: Cllr Steve Bradley.
Andy Cummins, SAS Campaign Director

This new polling data clearly shows that public support a small bag charge to help reduce our unnecessary reliance on single use bags and safeguard the environment.  The ‘Big Society’ can’t make it any clearer and the Government now needs to support the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ campaign by implementing a small bag charge in England.