The levy for single use plastic bags will double to 10p and apply to all retailers from next spring under government plans to tackle Britain’s throwaway culture.
Under a scheme first introduced in 2015, all retailers in England with more than 250 workers are legally required to charge at least 5p for plastic bags — a move lauded for having reduced use of the bags by almost 95 per cent. The levy will be doubled and extended to all retailers from April 20, ministers have now announced.
The government has vowed to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 as part of a 25-year Conservative party plan to improve the environment. But it has relaxed anti-plastic measures in recent months because of coronavirus.
A 5p charge for plastic shopping bags has been waived for online deliveries to aid rapid food distribution and a ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has also been postponed. The ban, which had been scheduled to come into effect at the end of April, will now take effect from October.
Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive at the conservation group “Campaign to Protect Rural England”, welcomed the announcement on plastic bags but called for a “new urgency” in the fight against Britain’s throwaway culture.
“To truly step up and face the war on plastic, government should bring in charges on all single-use, throwaway items — from takeaway cups to wooden forks”, he said.
“Incentivising reuse systems and finally committing to an all-in deposit return scheme for drinks containers are the only ways the government can achieve a litter-free countryside and win the war on waste.”
Critics of the plastic bag levy argue that alternatives — such as paper bags and sturdier, reusable bags — can cause equal or greater damage to the environment.
Announcing the latest changes, environment secretary George Eustice said: “We have all seen the devastating impact plastic bags have on the oceans and on precious marine wildlife, which is why we are taking bold and ambitious action to tackle this issue head on.
“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.”