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Plastic carrier bag fee to double to 10p

Shoppers will have to pay 10p for a carrier bag at all stores across England. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images
Shoppers will have to pay 10p for a carrier bag at all stores across England. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

The 5p charge for a carrier bag in England will double to 10p under proposals by environment secretary Michael Gove.

The doubled charge will also now apply to all retailers, including small shops. The current 5p levy, introduced in 2015 and aimed at reducing plastic use, only applies to large retailers.

Trade bodies representing 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5p charge, but this is less than one-fifth of England’s estimated 253,000 small and medium-sized businesses.

The changes could come into effect in January 2020, with a consultation launched by the government.

Mr Gove said: “The 5p single-use plastic carrier bag charge has been extremely successful in reducing the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives. Between us, we have taken over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation.

“But we want to do even more to protect our precious planet and today’s announcement will accelerate further behaviour change and build on the success of the existing charge.”

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Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “We welcome the government’s plans to extend carrier bag charging to all shops.

“This has been shown to be highly effective at reducing waste, whilst also raising money for local, national and environmental charities.

“Around half of small shops in England already charge for plastic bags voluntarily, with wider support for a mandatory charge.”

Oceanographer Dr Laura Foster, head of Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), hoped there would be support for the move.

The MCS has been monitoring the impact of the 5p charge since it was introduced in October 2015 and regularly provides evidence for government consultations.

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Dr Foster said: “We are able to measure the impact of legislation and we’ve seen that since the introduction of the plastic bag charge in the UK the amount we find on the beaches has gone down.

“That’s also been replicated by studies that have been done offshore – they’ve also seen a reduction in the amount of plastic bags they find.

“So we do know that legislation can directly impact on the amount we find on our beaches and in our oceans.”

Meanwhile, schools are also being urged by the government to end the consumption of single-use plastics by 2022.