Today, 21st May , our fight to tackle the scourge of single-use plastic carrier bags choking the ocean has taken another step forward with the extension of the plastic bag charge to all retailers and increased to 10p.
Plastic bags used to be one of the most common items of plastic pollution washed up on UK beaches and strewn across our natural spaces. But thanks to the tireless campaigning of Surfers Against Sewage and the Break the Bag Habit Coalition the government introduced a 5p charge on single-use carrier bags back in 2015 for large retailers. This charge has started to turn the tide on this particular strain of plastic pollution. The main supermarkets have reported a 95% drop in plastic bag sales since 2015 when the charge was originally introduced and the Marine Conservation Society have reported a 60% fall in the number of bags on UK beaches.
The original charge though was only applied to business with 250+ staff which means that we have still been seeing too many single-use plastic bags finding their way into into the seas and rivers where they pose a threat to wildlife. The increase in the minimum charge to 10p and crucially the extension of this charge to all retailers large and small will help to close the net on plastic bags, and further steer consumer behavior away from single use bags to more sustainable reusable options. Next up how about banning the sale of these bags altogether and upping the charge on ‘Bags for life’ to stop people simply switching to using them.
Henry Swithinbank, SAS Policy Officer.
“We have already seen the great impact the 5p charge has had on our beaches and we are excited to be taking the next step to break the bag habit with the increase in the minimum charge and extension of this charge to all business.
The plastic bag charge is a great example of how action from the government can drive business and consumer change and ultimately help clean up the ocean. So, let’s now get going with implementing the Deposit Return Scheme as part of an overarching policy to tackle all forms of plastic pollution. The plastic bag charge has shown what we can do with a bit of political will!”
These charges, and even an outright ban on the sale of these items though won’t be able to stem the flow of the many different sources of plastic pollution entering the environment. That’s why we need business and individuals to say no to all kinds of single use items and single use culture in general, and instead opt to consistently use refillable and reusable alternatives.
To help us all to make this change we also need to see the government step up and implement their long overdue plans for a Deposit Return Scheme, bans on single-use items, and an Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme.
Take action to clean up your local beach, river or park and join the Million Mile Clean.