Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

Skip to navigation

‘Monitoring’ - the Government’s new word for inaction on carrier bag charge

18 July 2013


The Break the Bag Habit [1] campaign says there are no credible reasons left for the Government not to introduce a charge on all carrier bags in England.

Figures released today (Thursday) show an increase of 4.4% in the use of single-use carrier bags in England, while Wales showed a 76% decrease in usage. Wales introduced a charging scheme in October 2011 and the figures released today provide the first full year's reporting.

The scheme applies to all single-use carrier bags regardless of material, with some obvious exceptions, such as small bags required for fresh meat or fish. It reduces unnecessary waste and litter, helping to reduce costly pollution of our seas, countryside and towns.

To date, the Government has done nothing more than say it will 'monitor' the scheme in Wales, despite the initiative reporting a significant reduction in bags within the first three months, the popularity of the scheme increasing and people reporting less litter. At the same time, Northern Ireland introduced a scheme in April this year and Scotland has confirmed it will do so in 2014.

The Government has also said it is worried about the impact of a charge on households in difficult economic times; however, it is not compulsory to buy a bag, so the charge is easily avoidable through making use of the many inexpensive and robust reusable bags now available. Evidence shows that a Bag for Life used x4 has the best environmental impact [2] so it’s possible for shoppers to find affordable bags they can re-use time and time again.

Samantha Harding, Break the Bag Habit spokesperson, said:

‘Today’s figures, showing an increase in bag use in England and a massive decrease in Wales, are resounding evidence for the Government to finally introduce a charge on carrier bags in England. We are now the only nation left not to apply a 5p charge. There is nothing left to monitor, and the facts are beyond doubt.

‘There is clear evidence that the scheme works, is popular with shoppers and isn't a burden on shop owners. If the Government takes the findings of its own Waste Review seriously – telling us to reduce waste first, before re-use and then recycling - it must support a charge on carrier bags. England cannot be the only home nation not to benefit from such a sensible and effective scheme.’


Notes to Editors

[1] The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Greener Upon Thames, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) Thames21 are calling on the Government to reduce litter and waste by requiring retailers to introduce a small levy on all single-use bags. Together they have launched the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ campaign.  

[2] Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources – A programme for the efficient use of our materials: Environmental Report
Pg 23: ‘The study concludes that reusable plastic bags are better than HDPE or paper ‘single use’ bags for almost every environmental indicator as long as reusable plastic bags are used at least four times. (The one exception is the relative littering risk against paper bags). The analysis took into account the fact that free, lightweight plastic carrier bags are often reused once at home.’


Back to top

Autumn web background 2018

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. If that's okay, just continue browsing - or see our cookies policy for ways to opt out.
Cookies Policy I agree