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Welsh praise 5p plastic carrier bag charge

A review of the introduction in 2011 of the 5p charge for single-use plastic carrier bags in Wales has found substantial support from consumers and the business community.

The Welsh Government report surveyed consumers and retailers between July 2014 and April 2015 on the effectiveness and response to the policy since its introduction.

Consumer support for the charge increased from 61% reported prior to 2011 to 74% in 2014.

Retailers were also largely supportive, with 87% saying it had had a positive or neutral impact on their business compared with 13% who thought it had made a negative impact.

In addition, it is estimated that between £17m to £22m has been donated to good causes from the money raised.

The report comes before the same charge is set to be introduced in England from 5 October, although SMEs are exempt, unlike in the rest of the UK.

Defra is still considering whether bags created from biodegradable plastics will be exempt from the charge.

In July, it was reported that the UK consumed 8.5 billion single-use bags in 2014, an increase of 2.3% compared with 2013.

A similar 5p charge on single-use bags is already in operation in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency recently announced a 69.5% reduction in the use of carrier bags since the introduction of the compulsory 5p levy in 2013.

In April, the European Parliament backed legislation requiring EU countries to reduce their use of lightweight plastic bags.

This would require member states to either reduce annual consumption to 90 lightweight bags per citizen by the end of 2019 and 40 by the end of 2025 or to ensure that no more lightweight plastic bags are given to shoppers for free by the end of 2018.

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