Break the bag habit – a call for action!

Have your say on the 5p charge on single use carrier bags in England – before December 20th 2013

What we’re getting
A 5p charge for single-use carrier bags will be introduced in England in October 2015.

Thames21 had hoped this would bring England into line with Wales and Northern Ireland who have been charging for bags from 2011 and April this year respectively, and with Scotland who will introduce a similar charge in October 2014.

Consultation or research document?
The coalition Government has just issued a public consultation on the Single-use Plastic Bag Charge for England – however, it is focused on a “Call for Evidence” to try and establish, among other things, what sort of bags should be exempt from the charge, what sort of bags for specific purposes should be exempt and how best to tell people about the charge. We believe well over 70% of the questions are aimed at retailers and industry not at gauging how much public support there is for this charge.

So, in our view, this is not a consultation at all – more a search for evidence to ensure that not all bags are included in the same way that they are in Wales and Northern Ireland and, we hope, Scotland.

In line or out of step?
The English charge will be radically different from the one in Wales if paper bags and so called ‘biodegradable’ bags are exempt and if the charge doesn’t cover businesses with less than  250 employees.

Photo courtesy of Marine Conservation Society

If you are reading this then you probably think a single- use carrier bag charge is a good thing – if the support the issue gets via our social media pages is anything to go by – you are not alone.

What can you do?
We’re obviously very disappointed that this consultation does not allow you, the public to voice your support for the charge, nor voice you concerns that the charge, unlike in Wales, will not be a consistent charge for a single use bags regardless of material or the size of the retail outlet.

Please use the following text as a guide to email to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Copy, paste, amend and send to:

Dear Defra

I am writing in reference to the call for Evidence on Plastic Bags. As a member of the public, I would like to voice my support for a single use plastic bag charge to be applied in England. However, I believe that it should follow the model in Wales, which has been shown to be highly effective in reducing single use bags which blight our natural environment.

 The charge therefore should apply to all businesses. I would like to see consistency between different shops, so that regardless of where I go, I know that there is the same charge for these bags. If all retailers are included, no single shop is disadvantaged by the charge.

I also want to see a reduction in all single use bags regardless of what they are made of – replacing one free bag with another made from a different material will not bring about a behaviour change, just shift the problem.

I would like it to be noted that I found it disappointing that the online consultation did not allow me, as a member of the public, to clearly voice these opinions.

Best wishes  

What more can you do?
You can take part in the consultation at:   but we think the public can only answer about three questions using personal experience as “evidence “.  We think those questions are:

Question 4: How else should people be told about the charge, in order to make it more effective?

Suggestions we have for this are:

·         Education

·         Advertisement at the tills

·         Adverts informing people e.g. local TV, radio, billboards, bus sides

Question 5: What evidence do you have that bags currently labelled ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ degrade on land, at sea and in anaerobic digesters?

If you have your own compost you can answer this – suggestion below:

“In my own experience, bags labelled biodegradable/compostable  have currently taken  – state amount of time”

Question 14: Do you have any evidence of the cost of compliance to organisations of the various different parts of the expected regulations and of any potential impacts of the charge on levels of customer demand?

The first part of the question is suitable only for an organisation.  But the second part of the question, “any potential impacts of the charge on levels of customer demands” could be answered from a  personal point of the view.

Thank you for taking the time to get involved