Increasing pressure on UK retailers to curb (or even overturn) reliance on plastic has inspired a quick fix solution.
There are reports that the charge for new plastic bags is to double, to 10p. It’s likely that this change in legislation will also include a new obligation for all retailers, regardless of size, to charge for carrier bags.
It is part of the Government’s planned answer to mounting demands for clear solutions to global plastic waste.
Bag charge success
The aim of the increase is to further reduce reliance on single-use plastic bags.
The largest supermarkets in the UK have reported that the initial 5p charge achieved the desired result. There has been an 86% reducing in plastic carrier bag dispensing since the charge was introduced in 2015.
This initiative provides an added PR bonus for retailers, as it generates charity funding. Not all retailers are willing to share figures on this, but there appears to have been over £58.5m donated to charities since 2015.
Is it enough?
However, there are calls for more robust measures to tackle the use of plastics in retail. This includes growing numbers of campaigns supporting no-plastic aisles in shops or even entire outlets that rely solely on reusable containers
The Government is due to discuss increasing the carrier bag charge as part of a series of measures aimed at stemming the UK’s “throwaway culture”. It’s believed the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove have already given the move their stamp of approval.
The Government proposal already includes an intention to outlaw plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds. A plan to introduce a retail returns scheme for drinks bottles and cans – to encourage higher levels of recycling – has also been discussed.
Michael Grove has been quoted in the media saying: “We want businesses to continue to look at what they can do to help improve our environment, to leave it in a better state than we found it.”
Seizing the high ground
For some retail organisations, heightened public sensitivity to plastic waste has proved to be a valuable marketing platform.
Some big brands have been quick to grasp the opportunity to show their green credentials, including food retailer Iceland who has announced it is moving to eradicate plastic from its own label products. Furniture retail giant Ikea has also vowed to remove single-use plastics from its stores and restaurants by 2020.
A number of food and beverage outlets have introduced or increased discounts for customers using re-usable cups.
Also, there were over 40 major retail signatories to the UK Plastics Pact earlier this year, which aims to eradicate unnecessary single-use packaging by 2025.