With England being the last part of the UK to implement charges for plastic bags, our time has come to join the scheme. The recycled packaging experts at Fast Pak Packaging talk us through the changes that have recently been actioned, and discuss what we can expect from this new way of packing.

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The Scheme

The 5p charge for plastic bags was implemented in Wales in 2011, Northern Ireland in 2013, and Scotland in 2014, and the scheme has already reduced plastic bag usage by around 70%. Every year, major supermarkets in England hand out over 7.6 billion bags to shoppers – and this total only includes those handed out by the big stores. With this in mind, the government is hoping to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags in England by up to 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street.

What Will Change?

All shops or chains with at least 250 full-time employees, excluding airport shops, now have to charge at least 5p for each plastic carrier bag they hand out. By doing this, the government are expecting to save £60m in litter clean-up costs as the aim is to encourage shoppers to re-use bags rather than simply throw away old ones. It has also been estimated that this scheme will create £13m in carbon savings; a large step to looking after our environment and reducing our footprint as a country.

What Happens to the Money Paid?

The extra money raised is not tax and will not be given to the government, it will in fact be given to the supermarkets to be used responsibly. Every shop involved in this scheme is expected to donate the money to good causes such as the construction of a world-class dementia research centre at UCL. Each year the government will publish a report detailing what retailers have spent the money on and if expectations are met, ministers are hoping to generate £730m for good causes over the next decade.

Is This Scheme Enough?

The environmental charity, Friends of Earth, support this scheme but have also expressed their concern that implementing a charge for plastic bags just isn’t enough.

The Association of Convenience Stores and the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee both stated that they felt the plans would confuse consumers by excluding smaller retailers from the scheme and by not charging for paper bags.

Only time will tell how much the country will benefit from the implementation and whether it will produce the savings we are hoping for. We believe that all contributions to saving the environment help, no matter how small, and this is just the start of our country’s journey to making a change.

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