What proportion of carrier bags do you re-use or recycle?

40% ■ All

32% ■ Most

12% ■ About 1/2

7% ■ About a 1/3

5% ■ About 10%

12% ■ None

Source: Bridgethorne Shopper Index

The vast majority of independent retailers in England look set to introduce the government’s 5p charge for carrier bags next week despite being exempt from the legislation.

The change in the law, which comes into effect on 5 October, will only apply to retailers employing more than 250 staff, despite appeals from leading independent retail trade bodies for it to apply to all.

The Grocer understands many leading symbol operators are now actively encouraging their members to use the opportunity to introduce a charge and use the proceeds to support charitable causes.

Londis, Budgens, Landmark Costcutter, One Stop and Spar are all recommending that their independent retailers introduce the charge.

One Stop said it was introducing the charge at its company-owned stores and therefore it made sense to have the same policy in its franchise estate, while Spar is also continuing to lobby for the current exemption for small stores to be withdrawn. 

There is no such exemption for small stores in the corresponding bag-charging schemes already running in Scotland and Wales.

“We are encouraging all our retailers to charge 5p for single-use plastic bags regardless of employee numbers from 5 October,” said Spar UK retail development and regulatory affairs controller Barry Wallis. 

“To raise awareness, PoS including A4 notices and shelf barkers will be displayed in-store. We will continue to work with the ACS and BRC to lobby government to make the charge universal in order to clear up any consumer misconception on how the charges have been introduced.”

The Grocer’s guest editor, Andrew Thornton, is also encouraging his fellow independent retailers to start charging.

“Go for it, do it and give the money away. It’s a fantastic way to connect with your community. We’re exempt but we will be doing it,” he said.

“So far we’ve been a loner so we’ve had more customer resistance, but there won’t be customer resistance because everybody will be doing it. Suddenly you’re collecting money from your customers that you can distribute to the community, which allows you to connect with your community and help them.”

New figures compiled for The Grocer from the Bridgethorne Shopper Index show the vast majority of shoppers are aware of the impending charge, suggesting there should be a smooth transition. 

Three quarters of shoppers (75%) are aware of the charge, while the vast majority (72%) already claim to be re-using or recycling most of their carrier bags.

In relation to the charge, 51.2% of shoppers said they would start carrying a bag at all times while 40% said they would bring bags for specific planned trips.

“It is fair to say that UK shoppers have very strong views on the environment,” said Bridgethorne joint MD John Nevens.

“This will likely make them receptive to initiatives that, at the very least, will positively impact the environment. However, it is less clear where the responsibility lies for food waste and recycling. 

“The reality, though, is that shoppers, consumers, manufacturers and suppliers all need to play their part in addressing these issues together.”