New Plastic Bag figures highlight need to rethink charge in England

The Break the Bag Habit coalition calls on the new Secretary of State for the environment, food and rural affairs Liz Truss to drop the exemptions proposed for the carrier bag charge in England.

New figures from WRAP show that plastic bag use in England has risen for the fourth year in a row. 7.4 billion bags were given out in England in 2013, an increase of 18% from 2010, while Wales and Northern Ireland, where charges are already in place, show decreases of 79% and 67%.

The Government has committed to introducing a 5p charge on carrier bags in England on 1st October 2015. However, the proposed exemptions for small businesses and paper bags means that this scheme will be much less effective than those in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Dr Sue Kinsey, Break the Bag Habit spokesperson, said ”This further increase in bags given out in England underlines the importance of having a charge. However, to be as effective as the schemes in Wales and Northern Ireland, the exemptions for small businesses and paper bags must be removed”.

”This increase should not come as a surprise to Government, as we pointed out the inadequacy of voluntary measures at the start of our campaign”, Sue Kinsey continues. “Frankly, the charge should have been brought in sooner, and the advice of experts, retail organisations and environmental groups to remove exemptions from the charge should now be acted on.”

With Scotland bringing in a charge this year similar to Wales, the Break the Bag Habit coalition feels that this is the perfect time to reconsider how England implements the charge, so that an effective scheme can be brought in across the country.

“Making a small change in our shopping behaviour by taking re-usable bags to the shops will prevent huge amounts of waste, litter and danger to wildlife,” Sue Kinsey continues. “It will also help to reduce the yearly £1billion clean-up cost of litter”.

The public can pledge to stop using single-use bags at


 Press contacts:

Sue Kinsey, Marine Conservation Society, Senior Pollution Policy Officer: m: 07989 5523 43 e:

Sam Harding, Campaign to Protect Rural England: m: 07738 55 83 84 e:

Andy Cummins, Surfers Against Sewage, Campaign Director: m: 07711 767 548 or e:

Helen Bingham, Keep Britain Tidy Communications and PR Manager: m: 07918 631682 e:

Trish Pargeter, Greener Upon Thames: m: 07956 120209 e:

Martin Holm Marketing and Communications Officer, Thames 21 m: 07827 352 67 e:

Notes to Editors

Ref: WRAP figures on carrier bag usage:

Break The Bag Habit coalition members:

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife. MCS campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Sir Andrew Motion, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

Keep Britain Tidy is the anti-litter charity for England. We are passionate about cleaner greener places and run the Love Where You Live campaign, Eco-Schools, Green Flag Award for parks (in partnership with BTVC and GreenSpace), and Blue Flag/Quality Coast Awards for beaches. TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp is our ambassador. To find out more about us and to become a supporter visit

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is an environmental charity protecting the UK’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy safely and sustainably, via community action, campaigning, volunteering, conservation, education and scientific research.

Greener Upon Thames is a London-based grass-roots organisation campaigning locally, regionally and nationally to dramatically reduce use of disposable carrier bags, backed by its Patrons Zac Goldsmith MP and ocean rower Roz Savage MBE. Greener’s campaign to ban single-use plastic bags at the London 2012 Games was supported by global and local leaders, including Sir David Attenborough, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Jeff Bridges and thousands worldwide.

Thames 21 is an environmental charity (registered number 1103997) which works with thousands of volunteers each year to improve London’s rivers, canals and ponds.

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK- and Washington DC-based Non-Governmental Organisation that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals. address