plastic bags

Industry bodies have expressed delight at the news that the 5p plastic bag levy could be extended to small retailers in England.

Theresa May is expected to outline the proposals on Thursday as part of a high-profile speech on the environment to coincide with the publication of Defra’s 25-year plan for nature.

The carrier bag charge was introduced in England in 2015 to retailers employing more than 250 workers and followed the successful introduction of similar taxes in Wales and Scotland.

Linda Sood, president of the Federation of Independent Retailers, said an extension of the levy would bring an end to customer confusion while helping NFRN members “cut costs, play their part in reducing waste and raise money for local worthy charities.”

“There is no denying the fact that the 5p charge has made a huge difference to plastic bag usage, with nine billion fewer bags used and more than £66m given by supermarkets to good causes,” Sood declared. “But the NFRN has consistently argued that while this is impressive, these figures could have been so much higher had independent retailers been included from the start.

“We look forward to playing an active part in the consultation process and working with government to ensure a smooth transition, although we will continue to press for reduced reporting requirements for businesses with fewer than 10 employees.”

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “The 5p carrier bag charge is an effective way of significantly reducing the number of bags in circulation while also providing retailers with a way of raising money for local charities. We have long campaigned for the charge to be extended to all retailers in England, as is already the case in Scotland and Wales, and would welcome steps to make the charge universal.”

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, added: “We know the plastic bag charge works and is popular with the public, so extending it is a sensible move. What we need to see now is the application of the same principle to all disposable plastic products, so we can reduce plastic production down to a level where we have a realistic chance of recycling it all.”