When the 5p carrier bag charge was implemented back in 2015 “chaos” ensued across England. People were refusing to pay the small amount of money and were carrying their shopping out in shopping carts and baskets, posting outlandish images on social media and generally causing a fuss. Little did many realise that Wales had implemented this charge back in 2011, not only to those who sold groceries but to all retailers, and immediately Wales started seeing a more conscientious use of plastic.
Time has gone by since gifs of carrier bags floating in the wind flooded social media, and what has changed? The results have been staggering, but let’s first look at the evidence as to why this was so important to begin with and why the ACS and environmental agencies are arguing that we should implement the charge not just to grocery stores with 250 employees or more - but to all retail outlets.
The Government reports that in 2014, 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were given to customers by the big supermarkets. That amounts to 140 bags per person which is equals to 61,000 tonnes of non-biodegradable plastic which will take 500 - 1,000 years to decompose and a lot of public money to be shipped to dumping sites. Unfortunately, the decomposition of plastic isn’t like your usual organic material, it will never actually leave our environment, but just turn into smaller toxic bits of plastic with toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer. These toxic chemicals are likely to infiltrate into every aspect of our lives – even now we are seeing evidence of people consuming plastic through eating fish and salt.
So, there is clear evidence that it is in our society’s, our own health and the environment’s best interest to reduce the amount of plastic we use – especially single-use plastic.
Now we are almost 2 years on from the introduction of the charge and the evidence is staggering of how this has affected our mentality and helped us change for the better. Defra’s data has reported that from 7 April 2016 to 6 April 2017 there has been an 83% fall of single-use plastic carrier bags, by the seven largest retailers. With a £66 million contribution going to good causes and charities chosen by customers and staff:
-approximately £33 million went to local causes chosen by customers or staff
-approximately £20 million went to good causes relating to charity or voluntary sectors, environment and health
-approximately £13 million went to a combination of good causes (including research, education, arts, heritage and sports)
The government further predicts that over the next 10 years the following will occur:
-an expected overall benefit of over £780 million to the UK economy
-up to £730 million raised for good causes
-£60 million savings in litter clean-up costs
-carbon savings of £13 million
Now the government is considering implementing the charge to all retailers across the country. Meaning convenience stores and forecourts will have to charge 5p for single-use plastic bags.
There are clear advantages, more than the aforementioned environmental and health ones. Convenience stores can really make good use of this opportunity and portray themselves as a greener and more conscientious grocery store. They can report their donations on their social media pages and on their community boards to develop and reinforce their brand, using the donations to support local charities and further give back to the customers that visit them on a regular basis.
In all; everyone is aware that single-use plastic is not a good use of resources and a clear symptom of our modern way of thinking: ‘everything is disposable’. However, the reality is very different, and plastic will continue to affect our lives if we don’t curb the use of it.
Why not make the most of the 5p charge and enjoy the benefits it can bring to the community and your store’s reputation?