New Plastic Bag figures highlight need to rethink charge in England

Surfers Against Sewage, as part of the Break the Bag Habit coalition, is calling on the new Secretary of State Liz Truss to drop the exemptions proposed for the carrier bag charge in England.

New figures from WRAP show that plastic bag use in England has risen for the fourth year in a row. 7.4 billion bags were given out in England in 2013, an increase of 18% from 2010, while Wales and Northern Ireland, where charges are already in place, show decreases of 79% and 67%.

The Government has committed to introducing a 5p charge on carrier bags in England on 1st October 2015. However, the proposed exemptions for small businesses and paper bags means that this scheme will be much less effective than those in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Dr Sue Kinsey, Break the Bag Habit spokesperson, said ”This further increase in bags given out in England underlines the importance of having a charge. However, to be as effective as the schemes in Wales and Northern Ireland, the exemptions for small businesses and paper bags must be removed”.

”This increase should not come as a surprise to Government, as we pointed out the inadequacy of voluntary measures at the start of our campaign”, Sue Kinsey continues. “Frankly, the charge should have been brought in sooner, and the advice of experts, retail organisations and environmental groups to remove exemptions from the charge should now be acted on.

With Scotland bringing in a charge this year similar to Wales, the Break the Bag Habit coalition feels that this is the perfect time to reconsider how England implements the charge, so that an effective scheme can be brought in across the country.

“Making a small change in our shopping behaviour by taking re-usable bags to the shops will prevent huge amounts of waste, litter and danger to wildlife,” Sue Kinsey continues. “It will also help to reduce the yearly £1billion clean-up cost of litter”.

The public can pledge to stop using single-use bags at