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The 5p carrier bag charge

All Areas > Environment > Save the Planet

Author: Lois Kingscott, Posted: Saturday, 24th October 2015, 08:00

You may be aware that recently the government passed a law whereby large shops are required to charge 5p for all single-use carrier bags. The primary aim of this is to reduce litter and encourage people to reuse bags.

There have been differing views about whether this was the right thing for the government to decide upon, so let’s investigate the benefits.

Reduced impact on the environment and wildlife
In 2014 alone, more than 7 billion single-use plastic bags were taken from major supermarkets in England – this equates to almost 150 bags per person, or over 60,000 tonnes.

While many people re-use these bags as bin liners, transport for their lunch, or for more shopping, they ultimately all end up as waste. Given that they take much longer than other bags to degrade, they are unsightly when littered in our towns and countryside, and can cause great damage to wildlife, it is extremely important for us to reduce our use of these bags.

Raising money for good causes
The 5p charge was introduced in Wales back in 2011 and has since seen great success. Single-use carrier bag use has been estimated to have decreased by 71% in just three years, consumer support for the charge has increased from 61% in 2011 to 74% in 2015, and additional donations to good causes have been estimated at between £17m and £22m.

Similar schemes introduced in Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014 have had similar success with thousands of pounds being raise for large organisations such as WWF, the Marine Conservation Society, fishery programmes and many other small local charities.

Litter clean-up and carbon savings
The government has forecast that over the next 10 years in England the new scheme will raise up to £730m for good causes, save £60m in litter clean-up costs and have carbon savings of £13m.

So, while it may be an inconvenience to remember to take reusable bags to the supermarkets and to pay the tiny 5p charge, just think about how you will be benefiting our environment in the long-term.

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