Carrier bag tax finally hits England

4 June 2014

Carrier_bagsWe warned you. After the runaway success the carrier bag tax has been in Wales, and with Northern Ireland and Scotland already following suit, it was only a matter of time before we were lumbered with a similar charge here in England. And now the Queen has confirmed it.

The Queen’s Speech today impressed upon us the Government’s green credentials, saying: "My government will... reduce the use of plastic carrier bags to help protect the environment." The Government have been under pressure from environmental groups for some time, owing to claims of wasted resources, littering and  injuries to marine wildlife. Critics of the scheme, however, think that many people do reuse carrier bags, either to carry things in or to use as a bin liner, or even recycle them in those big bins outside supermarkets, suggesting there may be other more pressing environmental matters to address. Like the permission to frack under anywhere and anything, which was also in today's speech, for example.

Nevertheless, from October next year, supermarkets will have to charge a 5p levy when handing out carrier bags, in an attempt to reduce the 7 billion bags currently dished out at checkouts. Bag usage in Wales has reduced by 75% since the levy was introduced. Small retailers will, however, be exempt to reduce any additional pressures on small business.

Of course, if you currently shop at Aldi, or Marks and Spencer, who both currently charge for bags anyway, you won’t notice any difference. Bully for you.

However, outline plans have already been criticised by the Environmental Audit Committee as being too woolly around the edges- in addition to excluding small retailers, the plans are not firm on whether biodegradable or paper carrier bags should be in or out of the levy. The Committee fears consumers will get stuck in an interminable loop of the hokey cokey and never be sure whether they need to bring bags with them or not. And don’t even start on Bags for Life…


  • Kevin
    It's not a matter of being sure if you need to bring bags or not. We all have bags, plenty of bags big and small. It's remembering to take them with you even if you don't think you are going shopping!
  • DionaeaMuscipula
    The plastic bag tax works really well in Wales where it applies across the board no matter the size of shop. You quickly learn to take bags with you everywhere, and it is really very little hassle. There are still plenty of bags around if you want to use them for other purposes. It has made a very significant difference to the environment by reducing plastic usage.
  • Alexis
    Self service checkouts ask you to voluntarily declare how many bags you've taken
  • JonB
    Would there be any rules against someone selling plastic bags outside supermarkets? Even charging 2p/bag, it would be a nice little earner for an independent trader.
  • James D.
    Well if the independent trader got the bags for free (which they would't) and sold 300 per hour they would still not make minimum wage
  • jim
    Cool so once I pay the bag tax I can throw my bags out the car window as I'll have relinquished my moral responsibility to the government.

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