Friday, 16 October 2015

England 5p Bag Charge - Why all the fuss?

On the 5th October 2015, England became the last part of the UK to start charging 5p for plastic carrier bags and since then my newsfeed on Facebook have been full of stories about it. Stories of people taking home their shopping trolleys, stores putting security tags on their 10p bags for life or their shopping basket etc making it appear that they English will do anything to avoid the 5p bag charge.

I live in Wales which introduced the 5p bag charge on the 1st October 2011 and at the time I was working in one of the well known supermarkets on the tills. In fact, the Wales bag charge goes further than the English charge by insisting all shops which sell anything inc takeaways, hairdressers, clothes shops, corner shops, butchers, bakery's etc must charge for a bag, whilst in England only the bigger stores which employ more than 250 or equivalent full-time staff. have to charge (although smaller shops can voluntarily charge)

Yet when the Welsh bag charge came into affect I don't remember any of this fuss. Yes people complained and you would see them stagger out of the shop with their arms full of their shopping, but I don't remember us having to place security tags on baskets or bags.

As the months turned into years the people of Wales got used to bringing their own bags and on the whole, most people I spoke to agreed with the charge. The only time I used to get complaints was from tourists from England (those from Scotland and Ireland were also used to the bag charge) who would moan that it was unfair and their local branch of our supermarket chain didn't charge so why did we. I would always calmly explain that it was Welsh law and that the 5p was going to charity (including which charity their 5p would be going to) and that I thought it was a good idea.

I've noticed since the bag charge came into affect there are less carrier bags spoiling our beautiful surroundings by hanging in trees and bushes or in streams or hurting our wildlife. Not to mention that it takes 10-20 years for a plastic bag to decompose (source - Recycling About). Making people pay for their bags has made them look after them better, even using less. I remember before the bag charge I had one lady who came to my till and who insisted on double bagging all her items and using a separate bag for every 2 items. I worked it out afterwards that she must have taken 10 bags for 10 items! Which is excessive no matter which way you look at it!

Shortly before the English bag charge came into affect, Money Saving Expert did a poll on where people lived and whether they agreed with the bag charge or not and it was very interesting reading. The majority of the Welsh (67%), Scottish (61%) and Northern Irish (55%) people agreed with the bag charge and that 5p was a fair amount compared to those who didn't agree (Wales 13%, Scotland 20% and Northern Ireland 16%) whilst in England the result was a lot more split with 41% for the charge and 33% against. This is even more interesting when you take into account that England was the only part of the UK that wasn't charging for carrier bags at the time.

So what are your views on the 5p bag charge? Do you agree with it?

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