Five pence plastic bag charge to be introduced in England

The government is to introduce a 5p charge for plastic bags in England from 2015 in an effort to discourage their use and reduce waste

The plastic bag levy will apply to consumers using single-use bags from shops with 250 staff or more. Smaller shops will be exempt. The money raised will go to retailers, although the government has urged that the proceeds then be donated to environmental charities.

Plastic bag use was at its highest in four years in 2012 with 8.1 billion bags issued by UK supermarkets, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme.

England will be the last UK nation to have such a levy. Since introducing a similar scheme in 2011, Wales has seen a 76% drop in plastic bag use.

Reaction from environmental groups has been mixed. “We welcome the fact that the government has decided to do something to deal with this problem,” said Dr Sue Kinsey, senior pollution policy officer from the Marine Conservation Society who campaigned for the levy. “However, we feel their proposal does not go far enough and would very much like to see it introduced sooner. We would like to see a similar scheme to that in Wales where all single-use bags are charged for in all types of shops. We feel that the exclusion of paper bags and small business will be confusing to all.”