A five pence charge for single use carrier bags in England will be introduced, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has said.
However, small businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be exempt from the charge to ensure that they are not disproportionately burdened by the charges, according to Defra.
The department said that over seven billion carrier bags were given out by supermarkets in England last year with too many going into landfill. Meanwhile, carrier bag charges in Ireland, Wales and Switzerland have resulted in an 80% reduction in the number of carrier bags given out.
Clegg 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.”
Clegg added that discussions were underway on how to use the money raised. He is calling for it to be sent to charity in a similar model to Wales’ levy proceeds.
Resource minister Lord De Mauley said: “Introducing a small charge for plastic bags will make people think twice before throwing them away. Year on year, the number of bags issued by retailers has been rising. Without a charge, the problem could escalate out of control and see our environment and animals suffer enormously.”
The minister added that there are also plans to incentivise businesses to bring biodegradable plastic bags to market in England. These bags would be exempt from the charge if they meet a new standard, which will also be introduced.
The charge set to come in from Autumn 2015.
- MRW reported in May that de Mauley said the Government would not introduce a plastic bag levy in England until there was evidence on how the system has worked in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.