From today, the 5th October, large shops will have to charge shoppers in England 5p for all single use plastic carrier bags they provide.
The charge, which will apply for all retailers with 250 or more full-time employees, is expected to significantly reduce the number of plastic bags taken from shops.
It follows the success of similar schemes in Scotland and Wales – in Wales the charge led to a 79 per cent decrease in plastic bags in three years.
7.4 billion plastic bags were give out by major retailers in 2013.
Each plastic bag that ends up in landfill will take 500 years to fully decay. Discarded carrier bags can damage our wildlife and an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in our ocieans each year, polluting marine environments and harming our sea life.
It is hoped that this scheme could reduce useage by as much as 80 per cent.
Small retailers don’t have to charge customers but can opt in to the scheme on a voluntary basis.
Customers are urged to re use their carrier bags, or invest in multi use ‘Bags For Life’.
There are however some exceptions to the rule. You will not have to pay if the bag is made of paper, or if you are in transit. There is also no charge if your bag contains items such as unwrapped food, raw meat or fish, uncovered blades, prescription medicine, seeds, bulbs, flowers or live fish.
Retailers will be tasked with keeping track of how many bags they have given out and where the proceeds have gone, this must be reported to the Government each year by the 31st May. It is expected that good causes stand to benefit from tens of millions of pounds each year.