An organisation representing the UK’s local convenience stores has backed government proposals to extend the 5p plastic bag charge to every small shop in England.
A 5p levy on plastic carrier bags was introduced to England in October 2015 after successful schemes in Wales and Scotland, but has so far only applied to businesses with over 250 employees. Paper bags are exempt from the charge, as are plastic bags bought at airports or on trains.
Now, prime minister Theresa May has indicated that wider introduction of the levy to smaller high street and local businesses will be a key part of the government’s 25-year environment plan, due to be unveiled on Thursday 11 January.
Welcoming its potential universal roll-out, James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), a body representing over 33,500 local shops, outlined dual benefits of the 5p charge.
“The 5p carrier bag charge is an effective way of significantly reducing the number of bags in circulation whilst also providing retailers with a way of raising money for local charities,” he explained.
“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.”
According to research undertaken by ACS, a third of retailers in England have already introduced a voluntary charging scheme to encourage customers to reuse their own bags.
Meanwhile, government figures have shown that the 5p charge has contributed to an almost 90 per cent reduction in the use of plastic carrier bags.
Respective charges introduced in Wales (2011), Northern Ireland (2013) and Scotland (2014) have also contributed to significant drops in usage.
The potential extension of the carrier bag levy arrives shortly after the announcement of the so-called “latte levy”, a government proposal to put a 25p charge onto takeaway coffee cups, as part of a renewed effort to tackle what environment secretary Michael Gove labelled a “throwaway culture” in Britain.
In response to the proposed latte levy, the Association for Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), an organisation representing hospitality businesses, warned an additional tax on takeaway cups would disproportionately impact on smaller businesses, which would in turn be forced to place the cost onto customers.
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