Government is to introduce a five pence mandatory charge for plastic bag use in Autumn 2015, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.
He revealed the decision at the Liberal Democrat annual party conference in Brighton on Saturday (14 September).
Speaking to delegates, the Deputy Prime Minister said: “Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside. They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals.
This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now. The charge will be implemented sensibly – small businesses will be exempt.”
The government is to encourage businesses to voluntarily donate the proceeds from the levy to charity. Businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be exempt from the charge.
Moreover, ministers are seeking to incentivise the use of biodegradable bags, with those meeting ‘a new high standard for these products’ also being exempt.
Bag levies across the UK
The recent announcement brings England in line with the rest of the UK; until Saturday, it was the only member of the United Kingdom not to have plans to charge a mandatory fee for plastic bag use.
Wales was the first nation to introduce the charge, bringing it into effect in October 2011. A Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) study in July 2013 found that it had led to a 76 per cent drop in the number of plastic bags issued in Wales, a figure that, it was claimed, increased to 96 per cent in some retail sectors.
The government of Northern Ireland followed suit with its own levy in April 2013. It later decided against doubling the fee after seeing a ‘significant reduction’ in the number of plastic bags used, including an apparent drop of in excess of 80 per cent in ‘several’ major supermarkets.
Furthermore, Scotland recently announced it would introduce a plastic bag levy in October 2014, which it hoped could save the country £7 million a year, totalling £90 million over the course of the 15-year ‘forecast period’.
Levy will “make people think twice”
The idea of a plastic bag levy has been fairly popular in England, with consumer magazine Which? finding that 56 per cent of those surveyed in England were in support of the idea.
And Environment Minister Lord de Mauley welcomed the levy on Saturday: “We have all seen the effects of discarded plastic bags caught in trees and hedges or ending up in rivers where they harm animals.
“Introducing a small charge for plastic bags will make people think twice before throwing them away. Year on year, the number of
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