One year on - did the plastic carrier bag charge impact on our behaviour?

Date: 27/09/2016 Written by: Jo 2 minutes to read.
Behaviour change in focus

In a bid to reduce plastic waste, the government introduced a 5p levy for every plastic bag used by customers, a charge which had already been successfully applied across Scotland and Wales. One year on, we take a look back and consider the impact that the carrier bag charge has had on our daily lives, whether it has been successful and what could be next.

In 2015, a levy was introduced so that every large store in England had to charge 5p for every plastic carrier bag used by customers. This charge had already been applied across Wales and Scotland, showing good levels of success. Wales reported a 71% reduction in carrier bag use after introducing the charge in 2011.

In the year leading up to the introduction of the charge, it was estimated that the seven major supermarkets used 7.64 billion bags over the course of the year. According to the six month figures recorded since the charge was put in place in 2015, only 640 million carrier bags were used at the same seven major supermarkets. If this trend were to continue for the entire year, that means an incredible 83% decrease for carrier bag use across England.

The money generated from carrier bag sales is in the hands of the retailers and it is up to them to decide where the proceeds should go. This information is to be published by the government each year, with a large percentage expected to go to charities. As well as less waste for our landfill, it is hoped that the charge will generate over £730 million over the next 10 years for good causes. It certainly makes me feel a little bit better when I have to buy a bag.

So, how has the carrier bag charge really impacted us in our day to day lives? We wanted to find out what people really think about the 5p charge, and whether they think it has changed behaviour in a positive way, so we took to the streets of Lincoln to find out.

So what’s next for the carrier bag charge?

There is some debate about whether the carrier bag charge should be extended across all companies (except small businesses). However, the government has suggested this may create too much of an administrative burden. Instead, we could see other moves to curb waste such as plastic cups (I wonder how many coffee cups are chucked away everyday) and packaging from the ever increasing trade coming from online shopping. We can do more to reduce waste and we should. Last week a small item was delivered into our office from Amazon in a very large box with over 5 metres of paper wrapped around it. Totally unnecessary and wasteful in my eyes. Excessive and unnecessary packaging must be the next big stick to poke at businesses. Surely?

Are you passionate about recycling? What sort of waste do you hate the most? Post your thoughts and comments below!

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