The use of single-use plastic bag has declined by 95% since a 5p levy on the bags was introduced in England in 2015. On average, a consumer now buys only 4 single-use plastic bags a year from major supermarkets – an astounding drop from 140 in 2014. However, the government appears to be going for the kill by doubling the levy.
Small shops were given more time to fit the new levy into their pricing regimes as it was rolled out first at major chains. But now, businesses across the spectrum – big or small – must apply a 10p charge on the bags.
The news has been lauded in the climate change community. However, many are still calling for stricter measures.
“Everyone wants to play their part in reducing the scourge of plastic waste that blights our environment and oceans,” said Environment minister Rebecca Pow. “The 5p bag charge has been hugely successful, but we can go further,” she added.
The English government believes its efforts so far are on par with the ‘ambitious action’ of UK authorities.
However, the climate change nonprofit Friends of the Earth, has expressed mixed feelings about the new charges. It believes that the government needs to act more extensively, arguing that the bags are only a small part of a bigger pollution crisis.
FoE is pushing for the charges to be extended to paper carrier bags and even “bags for life” – reusable containers which contain a large amount of plastic and are almost as problematic to the environment when disposed of improperly.
“It seems that many plastic ‘bags for life’ are being used just once and not reused for the bag’s lifetime, as is their purpose,” said Camilla Zerr, the group’s plastic campaigner.
“If ministers want to get to the root of this problem, they need to take a tougher stand against all single-use plastics.”
But the policies they’re advocating aren’t far-fetched. In fact some major players are already taking heed, including Morrisons and the Co-op, which have stopped selling plastic bags for life.