The cost of a single-use plastic bag in UK stores has gone from 5 to 10 pence. All large and small businesses must start collecting the fee from Friday. So far, smaller retailers have been excluded. The original 5p tax was introduced in England in 2015. Since then, the use of the bags has decreased by more than 95%.
The Friends of the Earth campaign group urged the government to go further, saying the bags were part of a bigger plastic problem. The group welcomed the program but said it still had “significant shortcomings”.
Activists said the fee should be extended to paper bags, while so-called “bags for life”, which are meant to be reused but contain larger amounts of plastic, are a “growing problem”.
“It seems that many plastic bags are only used once for life and are not reused for the life of the bag, as is their purpose,” said the group’s plastic campaigner, Camilla Zerr. “If the ministers want to get to the bottom of this problem, they have to stand up against all single-use plastics.”
The average person in England now only buys four single-use tote bags a year from major supermarkets, compared to 140 in 2014. By extending the fee to all retailers, the government hopes the use of single-use tote bags will decrease by 70 -80% in small and medium-sized businesses.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Everyone wants to do their part to reduce the scourge of plastic waste that plagues our environment and the oceans. “The 5p top-up was very successful, but we can go further.” She added that the new higher indictment in England would “support the ambitious measures” Britain has already taken in the fight against plastic “if we go back to greener”.