It’s been in force for some time in the rest of the UK, but a change in the law in England now means that any shop that employs over 250 people full-time nationwide has to charge 5p for one of those plastic carrier bags – the ones many of us take for granted we’ll be given free. Smaller businesses won’t be obliged to do so, but will be encouraged to start their own system for charging for bags.
Why is this being done?
Anyone who shops regularly will know that these kind of bags pile up at home after a while, and even using them as litter bags is not an ideal way of recycling them, as they aren’t bio-degradable. The scheme is designed to encourage people to re-use bags – assuming the bags are strong enough – and in doing so help reduce litter and help the environment, as well as helping to protect wildlife. In 2014, 7.6 billion bags were given out in England and these can take 1,000 years to break down.
How could it affect me financially?
On average, we got 140 free bags per person in 2014 – a total cost of £7 a year per person if we were to add in the 5p charge. Most major retailers now offer ‘bags for life’, more durable, sturdier and (often colourful) shopping bags which can be reused several times – as long as you remember to bring it/them with you when you go shopping. Some are only marginally more expensive than the price of a disposable bag, some stronger ones can be up to £1, while some higher-end or designer bags made of cotton, jute and other such materials can cost much more.
One study found that young shoppers would be more likely to be affected, as older people would be more likely to take a ‘bag for life’ to go shopping, with a fifth of those under 35 prepared to pay extra rather than bring their own bag.
What do you think? Would you take the 5p hit or make sure you bring your own bag to go shopping?