A full year has passed since the Welsh Government introduced a 5p charge for all single-use carrier bags, and as the scheme has been heralded a success by Welsh Ministers, it could be just weeks before England and Scotland decide to follow suit.
While it initially sparked controversy amongst consumers and retailers, the carrier bag charge is now said to be “widely supported” throughout the country, and with some retail sectors indicating a decrease in demand by up to 96%, it seems the 5p charge is having the desired effect.
In addition to reducing the amount of thin gauge plastic carrier bags handed out in Welsh supermarkets, the charge is also benefitting local charities and not-for-profit organisations. Tesco Wales raised a staggering £770,000 in the past 12-months alone, which it has donated to the RSPB Cymru, and The Co-Operative will add a further £160,000 to the £75,000 it has already handed out to local Wildlife projects, within the next few months.
As the first country in the UK to introduce a compulsory carrier bag ‘tax’, Wales seems to be leading the way when it comes to developing sustainable shopping habits, and with Northern Ireland set to launch their own carrier bag charge in April 2013, it can only be a matter of time before Scotland and England succumb to the pressure.
Speaking about the success of the 5p carrier bag charge, Welsh Environment Minister John Griffiths said, “Checkouts across Wales are now full of people using their own bags to carry shopping rather than paying 5p for a new one, and it is really heartening to see people in Wales developing sustainable shopping habits and being much less wasteful with the world’s natural resources.” He went on to say, “I can see no reason why the charge wouldn’t work just as well in other parts of the UK.”