Published date: 2 September 2020

Changes to carrier bag charge

On Monday, the government announced that from April 2021, the plastic bag charge will go up from 5p to 10p per bag, and that the charge will apply to small shops as well as the current supermarkets and larger stores.

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) strongly supports this change. At present, small businesses produce around 4.6 billion plastic bags per year. There is absolutely no justification for the mass production of single-use products like carrier bags when reusable alternatives exist. Single use plastic carrier bags may be cheap to produce, but they are costly for the environment – a cost that, in a Climate Emergency, we simply cannot afford.

Councillor Clyde Loakes, Chair of North London Waste Authority, said: “Whilst welcoming this announcement, why wait until April 2021 to enact it? I call on the Government to bring forward this increase from 5p to 10p per bag and the roll out to all shops from October 2020, to coincide with the introduction of the promised ban on single use plastic items such as plastic stirrers, straws and cotton buds.

I’d like to think that one day, we could get to a place where all packaging is either reusable or recyclable. Until we get to that point, if we want to see real environmental change, we need to make it easier for residents to do the right thing. We need to help them make that connection. The expansion of the plastic bag charge is a step in the right direction and a way to drive the issue home.

I’d also like to reiterate the NLWA’s call for household recycling in the UK to be made compulsory, with the relevant powers handed to local councils to enforce that change. Voluntary household participation in recycling, in 2020 is simply not sustainable or acceptable, if we are really serious about the Climate Emergency.”

As part of its Residual Waste Reduction Plan, last year, NLWA pioneered Low Plastic Zones across north London. Working with businesses in six key areas, officers supported businesses to become low plastic. Farringdon in Islington was the first area to be accredited as a Low Plastic Zone with 76% of businesses participating in the project. An official launch for Islington’s Low Plastic Zone was held on 5 February 2020, marking it as the first Low Plastic Zone in north London and the country. The Authority also supported the extension of the plastic carrier bag charge in its response to the government consultation last year adding that a charge to all single use carrier bags wherever they come from sends a very clear message that these bags have a negative environmental impact whatever their source.

It’s clear that direct engagement and communication can make a big difference to the way in which we think about and use single use plastics.  But, legislation and financial (dis)incentives such as the plastic bag charge have been proven to bring about change on a large scale. This model needs to be replicated and amplified across the board. For instance, NLWA expects the government to uphold its promise to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in October 2020. NLWA also fully support plans to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and extended producer responsibilities on packaging.