Calls to increase the plastic shopping bag charge to a pound NOW

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Shoppers no longer bothered about the 5p fee as carrier bag use shows signs of bouncing back.

Supermarket plastic bag use is showing signs of increasing again as the 5p charge for a carrier no longer acts as a deterrent.

That’s the view of the UK’s waste and recycling company, which thinks that now, is the time to increase the fee to a more realistic level.

The BusinessWaste.co.uk company suggests – after carrying out a poll of supermarket customers – that a charge of £1 is the only way to finally make plastic carrier bags a thing of the past.

“The introduction of the 5p charge in England led to an 85% decrease in the number of plastic carrier bags being used,” BusinessWaste.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall says.

“Unfortunately, 5p is no longer the shock to the system it once was, and we’re certain that the next government statistics will see a significant rise.”

With the next set of statistics due at the end of July, BusinessWaste.co.uk is confident that the annual figure will rise above the billion mark for the first time since the charge was introduced.

Previously, English shoppers were getting through seven billion single-use bags every year.

“We want to see that figure fall to zero within five years,” says Hall, “and the only way that can be done is by increasing the charge, while making reusable bags cheap and widely available.”

BusinessWaste.co.uk polled nearly 2,000 shoppers who patronise a wide range of stores from the budget end to the luxury end of the market. We found widespread agreement that 5p was no longer a hurdle to asking for a plastic bag, though there was not a great deal consensus on raising the charge.

When the 5p charge was introduced, did it stop you using plastic carrier bags?

Yes: 84%

No: 16%

Are you now routinely paying 5p for carrier bags at the supermarket?

Yes, for all my shopping: 24%

Yes, for some of my shopping: 38%

No: 36%

“It’s clear that we’re backsliding on our shopping habits, and the main reason is that we no longer care about adding a few pence onto our shopping bill,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall.

“And that’s straight from the mouths of shoppers who find the whole performance of remembering your reusable bags a bit of a palaver.

“That’s especially the case for those who pop into their convenience store for a few items on their way home, now accounting for a staggering number of supermarket visits.”

And while there’s still resistance to increasing the fee (with even some demanding it be scrapped), it looks like that the only way to increase use of reusable bags is to hit shoppers in the pocket.

What’s the most you would be willing to pay for a supermarket carrier bag?

Nothing: 3%

5p: 16%

10p: 23%

20p: 38%

50p: 14%

£1: 6%

Mark Hall: “It’s hardly surprising that there’s resistance to raising the charge to 50p or a pound, but that’s the pressure we need to put on shoppers to make them change their habits.

“Raising the plastic bag fee to 20p – while it would be great for the charities who benefitted by millions in the last year – would only leave people in their comfort zone where they won’t miss the money.”

Says the BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson: “It’s got to be set to a high level for the charge to actually work.”

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