Plastic bags to have 5p charge

Customers in England will be charged a mandatory 5p for single-use carrier bags from autumn 2015, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced yesterday.

Figures show that more than seven billion carrier bags were given away by supermarkets in England last year, many of which ended up in landfill or scattered across the countryside and streets at a cost of millions to the tax-payer.

Meanwhile, charges similar to the ones proposed by Clegg have led to an 80% reduction in the number of bags issued in Ireland, Wales and Switzerland.

“Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside. They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals,” he said. This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now. The charge will be implemented sensibly – small businesses will be exempt.”

According to Clegg, the government will talk with retailers to see how the money raised through the charges should be spent. “But I call on them to follow the lead of industry in Wales and donate the proceeds to charity,” he added.

The effects of discarded plastic bags have been seen in trees, hedges or rivers and cause harm to animals, Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said in a statement with Clegg: “Introducing a small charge for plastic bags will make people think twice before throwing them away. Year on year, the number of bags issued by retailers has been rising. Without a charge, the problem could escalate out of control and see our environment and animals suffer enormously.”

Yet, he also said there were plans to incentivise businesses in England to use biodegradable plastic bags, which would not be charged for if they met government standards.