Government charge to rid UK of plastic public enemy

Charges for plastic bags will be in force from October 5.
Charges for plastic bags will be in force from October 5.

Plastic bags have become public enemy number one in the pollution stakes in recent years.

Images of discarded bags suffocating sea turtles or blowing across bleak landscapes, getting caught up in tree branches, are ingrained on the mind.

But that could change now that charges for single-use plastic carrier bags have been made law.

As of Monday, large retailers have to charge a minimum of 5p for every bag given out to customers in an effort to cut the amount of waste produced in England.

The charges only apply to companies that employ 250 or more full-time equivalent employees, with big name supermarkets some of the highest profile businesses affected.

Information about the charges has been on display in stores to remind customers and they are being encouraged to purchase ‘bags for life’ or other reusable bags instead.

Hopes are high that the amount of rubbish created in Nottinghamshire will drop as a result of the charge.

Councillor Tim Brown, portfolio holder for the environment on Ashfield District Council said that he welcomed the 5p charge and was confident it would contribute to a significant reduction in the volume of waste generated in Ashfield.

“It’s a shocking fact that in 2013, supermarkets gave out over 8 billion single-use carrier bags across the UK,” he said.

“Nationally, that is nearly 130 bags per person, which equates to about 57,000 tonnes of single-use carrier bags in total over the year.

“Not only are discarded plastic bags are a very visible form of littering, they can also cause injury to marine wildlife. Even when disposed of responsibly, plastic bags can last for long periods of time in landfill sites.

Councillor Andrew Tristram, portfolio holder for the environment at Mansfield District Council, said: “The council welcomes the 5p charge on plastic bags and is hopeful that it will help to reduce the levels of waste produced in the district.”

After VAT and retailers’ ‘reasonable costs’ are taken from the 5p charge, the rest of the proceeds made from has to be given to what the Government considers to be ‘good causes’.

According to Morrisons, which has stores in Mansfield Woodhouse, next to King’s Mill Hospital and in Kirkby, an estimated £5million will be raised for its charitable foundation by the plastic bag charge.

This will mean more grants can be made to local and national charities which carry out projects to improve people’s lives.

Morrisons’ group corporate services director Martyn Jones said: “This is a big change for customers and we are working hard to make our shoppers aware of the charge and provide them with a choice of reusable bags.

“However, the charge will be a boost for local charities across the country and help them to deliver projects that will make a real difference in their communities.”

Tesco, which has large stores in Mansfield and Hucknall, said it will impose a 40p flat charge for grocery home shopping if customers opt for a bagged delivery.

It has also revamped its single-use carrier bags, making them from recycled plastic, stronger and sturdier.

Tesco said that the money raised from the 5p bag charge will be used to pay for a large number of local environmental improvement projects.

Customers will get the chance to vote in store and online for the projects they most want to go ahead in their own local areas and are being asked to nominate local good causes they would like to see benefit from the money.

Rebecca Shelley, group communications director for Tesco said: “We want to do everything we can to help our customers minimise the impact of the charge as well as their impact on the environment, by helping them recycle and re-use their bags.

“We’re also going to work together with our customers to make sure the millions that will be raised from the bag charge goes towards making a real difference for our local communities.”