The single-use carrier bag charge came into effect in England on 5 October 2015. This introduced a minimum charge of 5p on single-use carrier bags supplied by large shops (with over 250 employees) in England.
Since then single-use carrier bags are no longer given away free when buying goods from large shops. Shoppers who bring their own bags or use thicker, reusable ‘bags for life’ do not need to pay the charge.
The new law has been very effective, reducing the use of single-use carrier bags by over 95% in the main supermarkets and raising over £180m for good causes.
A consultation on extending the remit of the scheme and increasing the minimum charge was launched in December 2018. The government response to the consultation was published recently following delays caused by purdah restrictions and re-prioritisation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has now confirmed that the charge is to be increased to 10p and extended to include all retailers from April 2021. It is thought that this new charge will apply to almost all plastic bags given out by businesses across England.
The government is also introducing restrictions on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. These additional restrictions will be introduced in October 2020.