The 5p single-use plastic carrier bag charge has been waived for bags used in online grocery deliveries in England as of 21 March, with this temporary measure expected to end on 21 September.
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, environment secretary George Eustice said that, in light of the current coronavirus crisis, the waiver had been put in place to speed up deliveries and reduce the risk of contamination.
He told assembled reporters: “We recognise that this is a challenging time and that there are many things the government is asking the nation to do differently as we work together to fight this pandemic.”
Mr Eustice spoke alongside Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, and Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director. Each reiterated the minister’s message in urging the public to try to purchase more food online, leaving supermarket shelves more fully stocked in doing so.
A 5p charge for single-use plastic carrier bags came into effect in England on 5 October 2015 (see letsrecycle.com story).
The scheme aimed to reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags and the litter associated with them by encouraging people to re-use the bags they already own.
Retailers are expected to give the proceeds of the scheme to good causes, though it is for them to choose what to do and which causes to support.
The government reported in October 2018 the charge had seen plastic bag sales in major supermarkets drop by 86%.
In January 2019, Defra began consulting on plans to increase the minimum charge for retailers issuing single-use carrier bags to 10p, as well as extending the charge to cover smaller shops (see letsrecycle.com story). It is unclear when the increase to the charge is to take place.