Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced proposals to extend the 5p plastic bag charge to all retailers and potentially double the charge to at least 10p.
The measures will form part of a consultation – which will put forward further action to “tackle the blight” of plastic waste – to be launched later this year.
According to Defra, the changes will build on the success of the current charge, introduced in 2015. The introduction of the charge has seen plastic bag sales in England’s ‘big seven’ supermarkets drop by 86%, Defra says, and 13 billion plastic bags taken out of circulation in the last two years.
Trade bodies representing 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5p charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England’s estimated 220,000 SMEs, Defra reports.
Over three billion bags are estimated to be supplied by SMEs each year.
Announcing the consultation, during her visit to Kenya, Mrs May said: “We have taken huge strides to improve the environment, and the charge on plastic bags in supermarkets and big retailers has demonstrated the difference we can achieve by making small changes to our everyday habits.
“I want to leave a greener, healthier environment for future generations, but with plastic in the sea still set to treble we know we need to do more to better protect our oceans and eliminate this harmful waste.”
Mike Mitchelson, National President of The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN), welcomed the announcement.
“Independent retailers are environmentally friendly and like to play their part in reducing plastic waste so many of our members have already chosen to implement the 5p charge,” he said.
“The 5p charge has made a huge difference to plastic bag usage and all independent retailers can look forward to playing their part in reducing further waste and raise money for local charities.”
Today’s announcement is the latest step taken by the government to tackle plastic waste .
Earlier this year, the government announced plans for a deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates of drinks bottles and cans subject to consultation (see letsrecycle.com story), and ran a or charges to address single-use plastic waste.
According to Defra, the government is considering a number of options, including taxes or charges on specific plastic items which are commonly used on-the-go and littered.