carrier bag charge
August 19, 2016

The Carrier Bag Charge: 6 months on

The introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge in England back in October 2015 has affected millions – we’ve probably all visited a supermarket in that time, and either sighed at having to pay that bit extra on our bill, or sighed because we forgot to bring our resuable bags for life with us!

It’s undoubtable that the impact plastic bags have on the environment must be dealt with, and as such we support any government initiatives to try and reduce that, but how much effect is the charge actually having?

The government wanted answers to this too, and compiled a report back in July which looked back at the first 6 months of the charge and how carrier bag use has changed, and some key statistics on how many had been sold too.

You can read the full report here – but here’s the key points we picked out…

How many bags were sold?

The data from all of the large retailers who registered and reported back shows that around 1.1 billion single use carrier bags were sold during the first 6 months of the charge being in effect – though it’s good to keep in mind this could potentially include some reusable carrier bags too.

Of that 1.1 billion total, a huge 0.6 billion of the bags (that’s 61%) were issued by 7 of the biggest retailers in the UK – Asda, Morrison’s, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Co-op, and Waitrose.

This is vastly reduced in comparison to the figures from these retailers for the full 2014 calendar year, which showed that those top 7 stores issued a huge 7.6 billion single use carrier bags. Half that for a 6 month representation and you get 3.8 billion bags, compared to the 0.6 billion from the last 6 months. Such a big decrease means much less plastic bags in circulation, and therefore less damage to our planet and oceans – from this, it seems the charge is working!

How much money was raised?

The carrier bag charge was not a money making exercise, which is why it was suggested that big retailers pass on the proceeds from the bags to worthy causes – another great positive effect to come from the charge. The data from the first 6 months shows that the total made from the proceeds (after tax and any other costs) amounted to £41.3 million pounds, a huge amount of money which can then be put back into local communities and charities!

Over 66% of all retailers that reported back also gave additional information on the money they donated and who they donated it to, and these included charities for the environment, education, health, the arts, voluntary organisations, heritage, sports, and lots of specific local causes chosen by individual retailers and their customers. At least £29.2 million of the proceeds was given to these kinds of causes. Some retailers have even chosen to donate the full amount that they make to charity, which is absolutely fantastic!

Whilst it will be hard to track exactly what kind of difference the proceeds from the charge will make to these charities, it’s clear that the money we’re spending on our plastic bags is being put towards really worthy causes, as well as helping protect the environment.

These figures aren’t as accurate as they could be – there’s some retailers that don’t have to report back, and things like tax and cost per bag vary between stores – but what’s clear is the positive impact the charge is having on both the environment and the community after just 6 months.

What are your thoughts on the carrier bag charge? Start the conversation by tweeting us @printedbagshop!

(Blog image from here)