Shoppers in England will now be charged a minimum of 5p ($0.08) for using a plastic bag in supermarkets and other such major retailers. From today (5 October), shops which employ more than 250 people will be forced to provide the charge for plastic bags as part of a government scheme to reduce litter and protect the environment and wildlife.
Smaller shops and retailers will not have to impose the minimum 5p charge and paper bags will also continue to be handed out for free. You will still receive a free plastic bag if you are purchasing raw meat of fish.
The scheme is expected to raise about £730m for good causes as some 4p of each sale of plastic bags will go towards local charities, as well as save approximately £60m in clean-up costs.
The scheme has already been in place in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – which has seen a 79% fall in the number of plastic bags handed out by retailers in the first three years of its introduction.
David Powell, Friends of the Earth's senior resources campaigner, said: "This charge will significantly reduce the billions of one-use plastic bags handed out in the UK each year – but it should apply to smaller shops too. More than half of people living in England and the Association of Convenience Stores are supportive of extending the scheme to all retailers.
"And in Wales, 90% of businesses, both large and small, said that a 5p charge hasn't impacted on their trade."
Environment minister Rory Stewart said: "We're all guilty of taking a carrier bag from a supermarket, storing it somewhere safe at home with the intention of using it again, then forgetting to take it with us next time we go to the shops.
"But the more bags we take, the more plastic makes its way into our environment, blighting our high streets, spoiling our enjoyment of the countryside, and damaging our wildlife and marine environments.
"Simple changes to our shopping routines, such as taking our own bags with us or using more bags for life, can make a huge difference in reducing the amount of plastic in circulation meaning we can all enjoy a cleaner, healthier country."