People, Environment

England Introduces Plastic Bag Charge

England Introduces Plastic Bag ChargeEngland Introduces Plastic Bag Charge

England has become the last nation in the UK to introduce charges for plastic bags to protect wildlife and reduce littering on streets.

From Monday, shoppers at all big stores have to pay 5p for every bag provided at the tills. It is hoped that most consumers will remember to bring their own.

Last year, more than 7.6 billion plastic bags were handed out by major supermarkets alone—the equivalent of 140 per person, Sky News reported.

Critics have claimed the charges are too complicated and could lead to confusion and longer queues at the tills.

The government has also faced criticism from environmental campaigners who say it is wrong that smaller shops have been exempted from the policy.

Only retailers that employ more than 250 full-time workers will need to begin charging their customers and paper bags can continue to be handed out for free.

In Wales, where a more comprehensive bag-charging policy has been enforced, the number of single-use carrier bags handed out by stores fell by 79% in three years.

Westminster hopes England’s plastic bag charge will see use fall by as much as 80% in supermarkets and 50% elsewhere on the high street.

It is also estimated that the fee will slash litter cleanup costs by £60 million ($91.2 million), while simultaneously generating £730 million ($1.1 billion) for good causes.

Most shoppers appear to be behind the policy, with one poll suggesting that 62% of shoppers in England believe the 5p charge is reasonable.

Break The Bag Habit group, which conducted the survey, also discovered that 51% of consumers would support a scheme that applied to all retailers, irrespective of their size.

Nine in 10 Welsh retailers have said the plastic bag charge has not impacted their trade.

England’s Environment Minister Rory Stewart, said: “We’re all guilty of taking a carrier bag from a supermarket, storing it somewhere safe at home with the intention of using it again, then forgetting to take it with us next time we go to the shops.

“Simple changes to our shopping routines, such as taking our own bags with us or using more bags for life, can make a huge difference in reducing the amount of plastic in circulation–meaning we can all enjoy a cleaner, healthier country.”