Image credit: Andy Hughes

The Break the Bag Habit coalition of environmental charities is delighted that the government has finally decided to act, listening to thousands of people across the country and is introducing a charge on single-use carrier bags in England. The 5p bag charge will be implemented in 2015, after the election. The coalition, made up of Surfers Against Sewage, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and Campaign to Protect of Rural England, along with Thames 21 and Greener Upon Thames, has long been urging the government to follow the example of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and introduce a charge on all single-use carrier bags.

The Break the Bag Habit coalition, which launched its campaign in August 2012, pressured the government to introduction of a bag charge in England as it’s good news for the environment. A policy that reduces the number of carrier bags that litter the nation’s streets, countryside and beaches must be celebrated.

While Wales, with their bag charge saw a 76% reduction in single-use carrier bags in 2012, in England there was a 4.4% rise, and, in total, more than eight billion bags were handed out – more than 254 per second. A Break The Bag Habit coalition poll commissioned in September 2012 showed well over half of English adults (56 per cent) think it is not unreasonable to charge for carrier bags. Only 25 per cent of respondents disagreed. 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. This shows that even in a recession the public supported a charge on single use bags, and they understood they can avoid the charge by using reusable bags.

The new charge for England will apply to supermarkets and large stores. Small and medium sized businesses don’t have to enforce the charge. There will be a public consultation on the potential to develop a truly biodegradable bag that could be exempt from the levy, but at the moment no such bag exists.

Break the Bag Habit, made up of Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) , Greener Upon Thames and Thames 21, is the coalition that has led a call for the Government to reduce litter and waste by requiring retailers to introduce a small charge on all single-use bags.

Andy Cummins, SAS Campaign Director and spokesperson for Break the Bag Habit

We are delighted that the government has finally listened to the Break The Bag Habit campaign and the thousands of supporters who’ve written letters and signed petitions calling for this moment. Finally the government will help improve the environments we all love so much by implementing a policy that the Break The Bag Habit has shown to be popular with the public and effective in reducing litter.