Welsh plastic bag levy reaches first anniversary

PLastic bags

Welsh Environment Minister, John Griffiths has deemed the country’s 5p plastic bag charge a success, after seeing a 96 per cent drop in bag usage in some retail sectors in the levy’s first 12 months. Carrier bag usage in food retail has decreased between 70 and 96 per cent, while other sectors have also seen substantial reductions: 95 per cent in home improvement; between 68 and 75 per cent in fashion; and up to 45 per cent in food service.

According to a survey undertaken by the British Retail Consortium and Cardiff University, around 70 per cent of people in Wales support the plastic bag tax that is in force at major retailers and has so far raised over £800,000 in donations for the RSPB and Keep Wales Tidy.

Many other charitable and environmental organisations have benefitted from the levy, proceeds of which are donated to good causes (at the urging of the Welsh Government), including the Vincent Wildlife Trust, which received £75,000 from plastic bag proceeds from The Co-operative. The money will be used to support a three-year project to protect Pine Martens, a rare mustelid species, in South West Wales and Snowdonia.

Speaking on the anniversary of the charge’s implementation, Environment Minister John Griffiths said he could see no reason why the levy wouldn’t work just as well in other parts of the UK.

“One year on from the introduction of our 5p bag charge it is obvious that it has made a real difference to shopping habits of people here in Wales.

“Checkouts across Wales are now full of people using their own bags to carry shopping rather than paying 5p for a new one, and it is really heartening to see people in Wales developing sustainable shopping habits and being much less wasteful with the world’s natural resources. I think the Welsh experience proves that if you want to effectively reduce carrier bag use, a charge really is the best way to go.

“I have been really impressed by the ease with which Welsh retailers and shoppers have adjusted to the charge. Their efforts have been key to its success and I can see no reason why the charge wouldn’t work just as well in other parts of the UK.”

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland are currently looking at the possibility of introducing a mandatory charge for single-use carrier bags in their respective countries.

A recent poll by Which? also found that 56 per cent of people in England are in support of introducing a plastic bag levy in their country, which this year was found by WRAP to be the only member of the UK to see a marked increase in plastic bag usage.