These past few weeks and months have been abuzz with news of the new 5p charge on one-time plastic shopping bag. The move is part of a government effort to eliminate waste and encourage people to opt for reuseable bags when they shop. If all goes according to plan, the new charge could reduce single-use plastic bags usage in supermarkets by as much as 80%.
Judging from the comments on our Facebook page, peoples’ emotions about having to pay for their bags when they shop range from optimistic to skeptical. Most though do seem ready and willing to embrace it and in fact a recent poll shows nearly two-thirds of people support the new charge.
Here are five reasons to get in the right mindset about bringing your own shopping bag on your next weekly shop — as well as a few helpful tips along the way!:
Make no mistake, those plastic shopping bags take a significant toll on the environment. According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were distributed by major UK supermarkets in 2014. That’s 140 bags per person or 61,000 tonnes in total! Just imagine – no more litter blowing in the trees!
Tip: Bags that are necessary for certain items won’t be charged so make sure you know the exceptions to the rule! These include bags used to contain wholly or partially wrapped food, uncooked fish, meat and poultry or poultry products. Click here to familiarize yourself with the complete list of exemptions.
People have been happily relying on reusable bags throughout the UK for some time now. As one Facebook user from Wales encouragingly put it: “It did not take me long to remember to take bags with me. I do think it makes a difference.” In Wales, where people have been bringing their own bags shopping since 2011, the bag charge resulted in a 79% reduction in plastic bag consumption within the first three years. Northern Ireland started its own initiative in 2013, with Scotland following suite just last year.
Tip: Keep a reusable cloth bag in the boot of your car as well as by the front door to minimize the chance you are caught without – whether you’re making a spontaneous supermarket pitstop or rushing out of the house.
Picking up new habits can be challenging at first, but finding the perfect reusable bag has its perks: you can make it your own! Make a statement with a bag from one of the organisations that are distributing them for freein your community or elsewhere. Or keep your eyes peeled for a free cloth bag the next time you attend an industry or marketing event. If you’re the crafty sort, you can also use this opportunity to go all out and make your own.
Tip: Stores will be required to charge for plastic bags used for deliveries. So check to see if your supermarket offers bagless deliveries to avoid unexpected charges. (Those exempt items we mentioned – like uncooked fish or meat – will still come in free bags.)
The 5p charge is not a tax so money from a sold shopping bag will go to the government. Instead supermarkets will be able to donate proceeds to a charity or cause of their choice. Tesco has already committed the £30m it anticipates making from the charge to various parks and woodlands projects its customers will get to vote on each year. The government expects that over the next 10 years up to £730 million will be raised for good causes that benefit local communities across England. If more supermarkets follow Tesco’s lead, that will be good news for everyone.
Tip: If you don’t shop at Tesco, find out if your supermarket of choice is also offering their customers a chance to vote on which local charities or projects it supports with any shopping bag charge proceeds.
We wouldn’t be mySupermarket if we didn’t also talk about savings. Only in this case we’re referring to savings based on the impact of having less plastic shopping bags to contend with in our environment. Over 10 years time, the reduction in bag consumption is expected to add up to over £60 million in litter clean up costs and carbon savings of £13 million. In other words, savings that ultimately benefit all of us.
So there you have it: five good reasons to get (even more) excited about the new plastic shopping bag charge.
We’re eager to know what you think in the comments below. Are you in favor of the charge? Has getting used to bringing your own bags with you been hard? Or easier than you imagined? Are there are any other tips we missed?
Please let us know! Happy shopping!