The Government has today stepped up its fight against single-use plastics by confirming that the plastic carrier bag charge will be extended to all retailers from April 2021.
Since the charge was first introduced in 2015, the Government has successfully prevented billions of plastic bags being sold and ending up in the ocean and environment.
The latest statistics show the current levy, which stands at 5p and applies to any retailer employing 250 or more people, has led to a 95 per cent cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets since 2015.
Today’s announcement, which marks the latest move to clamp down on plastic pollution, will drive this success even further and take us closer to our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste through our 25 Year Environment Plan and build back greener after coronavirus.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
We have all seen the devastating impact plastic bags have on the oceans and on precious marine wildlife, which is why we are taking bold and ambitious action to tackle this issue head on.
The UK is already a world-leader in this global effort, and our carrier bag charge has been hugely successful in taking billions of harmful plastic bags out of circulation. But we want to go further by extending this to all retailers so we can continue to cut unnecessary waste and build back greener.
I hope our pioneering track record on single-use plastics will inspire many more countries to follow suit, so we can take on plastic waste together and implement lasting change.
As a result of the carrier bag charge, the average person in England now buys just four bags a year from the main supermarkets, compared with 140 in 2014. By extending the charge to all retailers, ministers want to see bag usage cut significantly in small shops as well, with customers incentivised to use long-life bags made from more sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials.
Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society said:
It’s encouraging to see the government take further steps in reducing our reliance on single-use plastic bags. Since the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge we’ve seen a more than 60% drop in the number of plastic bags on the UK’s beaches.
It’s so important we reduce our reliance on single use items and we move to a culture of reuse. This increased charge, and extending to all retailers, will help remind people of everyday, simple changes they can make to help the marine environment.
In a public consultation last year, the government proposed to double the charge and extend it to all retailers, with the vast majority of respondents welcoming the move – which Defra has now committed to implementing from April 2021, in a formal response published today.
Other key government actions on plastics include a world-leading ban on microbeads, consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of single-use drinks containers, and a ban on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds which will come into force in October.
The government will also introduce a new world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022, subject to consultation, to encourage greater use of recycled plastic to tackle the problem of plastic waste and protect the environment.