Government extend plastic bag charge to all retailers from 2021

Today (31 August 2020), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that they are continuing their ambitious efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of plastic bag waste on our oceans and intensifying their endeavours by rolling out the single-use plastic bag charge to all retailers

This change will come into effect from April 2021 and applies to any retailer employing 250 or more people. The charge is currently set at 5p, however, following a public government consultation in 2019, this is set to double at the same time as the extension implementation.

The plastic carrier bag charge has already reaped some brilliant results; June 2020 statistics published by DEFRA showed that since 2015, the 5p bag charge has achieved an impressive 95% decrease in plastic bag sales in leading supermarkets. In addition, it has been found that the average person in England buys only 4 single-use plastic bags per year from major supermarkets, in comparison to 140 in 2014, so a considerable decrease.

The impact to date on the UK’s oceans and beaches has also been positive; Dr Laura Foster, head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society said: “It’s encouraging to see the government take further steps in reducing our reliance on single-use plastic bags. Since the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge we’ve seen a more than 60% drop in the number of plastic bags on the UK’s beaches.”

Achieving permanent change and leading the way globally to tackle plastic pollution is the government’s wider aim and in line with this announcement, Environment secretary George Eustice said: “The UK is already a world-leader in this global effort, and our carrier bag charge has been hugely successful in taking billions of harmful plastic bags out of circulation. But we want to go further by extending this to all retailers so we can continue to cut unnecessary waste and build back greener…I hope our pioneering track record on single-use plastics will inspire many more countries to follow suit, so we can take on plastic waste together”

If you have any queries regarding the upcoming changes to the plastic bag charge and/or need help determining if this will affect your business, please get in touch with our policy team on who will be happy to help.