In 2014, major supermarkets in England provided customers with 7.64 billion single-use plastic bags. On Oct. 5, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) announced a 5p charge for single-use plastic bags. The charge is expected to significantly reduce the number of plastic bags taken from shops.
The new law applies to all retailers with 250 or more full-time employees, and it follows the success of similar schemes in Scotland and Wales. In Wales the charge led to a 79% decrease in plastic bags over three years. Environment Minister Rory Stewart expects a similar significant reduction in England, possibly by as much as 80% in supermarkets and 50% on primary business and shopping streets.
Plastic bags can have a significant effect on the environment. According to a Defra press release, around 9 million tons of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans each year, polluting marine environments and harming sea life.
The charge will benefit charities and nonprofits and is expected to raise as much as £730 million over 10 years.