Government consults on doubling plastic bag charge

The government is consulting on proposals to extend and increase the plastic carrier bag charge, which would see it double to 10p and require all retailers to participate

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says the move forms part of its commitment in the government’s 25-year environment plan, which includes measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.

While the charging regime would be extended to include all retailers, there would be no reporting requirements for small and medium businesses.

The reforms would require producers of single use carrier bags to report how much they sell, and would also remove the exemption at security restricted areas in airports.

Introduced in 2015, the 5p levy is believed to have removed an estimated 15 billion bags from circulation. At present, it applies only to businesses with at least 250 employees, but the change will see it extended to an additional 253,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In 2017/18, Tesco produced the most donations from the charge, providing £13m to the government. It was followed by Asda (£8m), the Co-operative group (£6m) and Morrisons (£5m), with an estimated £51m in total being donated by large businesses.

The government's 25-year plan has seen the launching of a consultation in October 2018 on proposals to ban the distribution or sale of 'plastic straws, plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic drink stirrers in England'.

It was followed by an announcement in the Budget that the Chancellor plans to introduce a tax on the production and import of plastic packaging, to come into force from April 2022. Subject to consultation, this tax will apply to plastic packaging which does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic.

In Budget 2018, the government also announced that it will provide £20m 'to support plastics innovation, to reduce plastics waste, and improve sustainability'.

The consultation closes on 22 February.

Consultation on the proposal to extend the Single-use Plastic bag charge to all retailers and to increase the minimum charge to 10p is here

Report by Pat Sweet, additional reporting by James Bunney

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