Carrier bag charges- coming to a shop near you?

5 July 2012

Carrier_bagsPlastic carrier bags are very handy things. You can put your shopping in them, you can wear them as a hat  if it’s raining, and they mean you don’t ever need to buy bags for the inside of household bins. In fact, the multi-use qualities of the plastic carrier bag, coupled with their capacity for biodegradeability and the  fact that most bags are used many more times after first acquisition, means that most people wouldn’t think carrier bags were the best place to focus environmental efforts.

However, down in the Valleys, carrier bags became public enemy number 1, and from 1 October last year, all carrier bags (plastic and paper) were subject to a 5p levy. New research reveals that this charge has meant fewer people have been picking up new carrier bags than when they were free. Wonders will never cease.

The full report, which includes data from both Cardiff University and the British Retail Consortium, shows that own-bag use in Wales has increased from 61 per cent to 82 per cent, and that public support for the charge has increased from 59 per cent to 70 per cent

The reductions estimated by retailers are as follows:

>          Food retail - between 96% and 70% reduction in bag use

>          Fashion - between 75% and 68% reductions

>          Home improvement - 95% reduction

>          Food service - up to 45% reduction

>          Telecommunications - 85% reduction

Environment Minister John Griffiths was understandably 'delighted' at the news.

“Research and retail figures support what shoppers and retailers have been telling us for some time. The Welsh public have adjusted brilliantly to the Welsh bag charge and the majority now regularly take their own bags with them when they go shopping. I would like to thank retailers and shoppers for their ongoing help in making this policy – the first of its kind in the UK- a success,” he declared.

But other parties are likely to be equally as delighted with the new scheme. Environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy has received more than £105,000-worth of retailer donations as a direct result of the bag charge. Not bad, but bear in mind that the retailers don’t have to donate their 5 pences at all, if they decide to keep the extra money, they can. “The Welsh Government wants this to be passed on to good causes, preferably environmental good causes, here in Wales”, but there is no enforcement and paying the money over relies on a voluntary code of practice. That you can voluntarily decide to ignore.

So, retailers are taking more money, charities are getting more money, who else must be getting a slice of this pie? The taxman.

While this is very definitely not a carrier bag tax, VAT registered retailers must account for VAT on the 5p charge, so for every tiny shiny coin, the tax man gets 0.83p. Doesn’t sound like much, but if we assume all of the donations to Keep Wales Tidy were from VAT registered businesses, the taxman has earned nearly £21,000 in nine months from a lower populated area of the UK. Not bad for not doing any extra work. Perhaps they could employ someone to chase tax avoidance.

So, given that the carrier bag levy is pleasing everyone, surely it’s only a matter of time until it is rolled out across the country. Better start stockpiling now…

TOPICS:   Economy   Government


  • jt
    "if we assume all of the donations to Keep Wales Tidy were from VAT registered businesses, the taxman has earned nearly £21,000" And if we assume the taxman has GCSE Maths then he'd have nearly £23,000.
  • Alexis
    M&S self service checkouts ask how many bags you've used, charging 5p each. I just press 'zero'.
  • Mathsy M.
    @jt most people I know make sure of their own mathematics before criticising other people's. £105,000 divided by 4.17p multiplied by 0.83p gives £20,899...
  • Mr P.
    Is this really the most important thing politicians have to occupy them?
  • Miss H.
  • Hats o.
    > Telecommunications – 85% reduction yes, I always need a carrier bag when I pay my phone bill.
  • Rich
    Take a bag or five to the shop with aint rocket science you twonks! Cant remember the last time I spotted a carrier bag blowing about in the wind in Swansea.
  • chools
    thats cause no one can afford to buy anything
  • bob
    that's because all the local youths are huffing glue through them
  • Bob
    Asda swapped 5 plastic bags for a free bag for life so stock up on those old plastic bags in England.
  • Sicknote
    I prefer to say no to bags and instead just look like a confident shoplifter
  • bogbrush
    I think I read that when they charged in Ireland, use of carrier bags dropped but purchases of bin liners increased. As you say, people reuse carriers as rubbish bags. It seems that this scheme will just push the use elsewhere.
  • Nige
    I use the free carrier bags for the daily kitty litter tray scoop the poop ritual. Also to line the waste paper basket and the bathroom bin. In the absence of freebie bags I'd have to buy pedal bin liners etc.

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