Single Use Carrier Bags

From 5 October 2015 it is compulsory for certain retailers to charge 5p for the provision of single use carrier bags.


In 2014 over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were given to customers by major supermarkets in England. That’s something like 140 bags per person, equivalent to 61,000 tonnes in total. Despite research showing that the average household already has 40 plastic bags around the home, the number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets increased for the fifth year running in 2014. As a result of the legislation being introduced the government expects to see a significant reduction in the use of single-use plastic carrier bags – by as much as 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street.

Similar 5p charges are already in place across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The scheme in Wales saw a reduction in plastic bag consumption of 79% in its first 3 years.


Who needs to comply?

Initially only businesses with in excess of 250 employees will need to comply with the legislation but smaller businesses can adopt the charge on a voluntary basis if they wish.


If you take your own bag or container with you then no charges will apply. Some shops may charge more than 5p for a thicker reusable bag but the intention is that these will be reused.

What exemptions apply?

There are some exemptions from the legislation as follows:

• If bags are made of paper
• Shops in airports, on trains, aeroplanes or ships
• Bags only containing unwrapped meat or fish, prescription medicines, uncovered blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers or live fish.

What happens to my 5p?

Of the 5p charged 1p is VAT, which goes to the government; the remainder is to be donated to good causes by the retailer and the retailer will need to report to the government what it has raised in this manner and who it is donated to.


For more information on the subject, please contact Colin Johnson.