Gifts Today magazine

Confusion as 5p bag charge introduced

From today retailers in England with more than 250 employees must charge 5p for a single-use carrier – unless it contains fruit and veg, fresh meat or fish... or razor blades.

Airport and train station stores are exempt, as well as small firms.

However the exemption for small retailers has attracted controversy. The British Retail Consortium has argued it will lead to confusion among customers and called on the Government to revise the exemptions.

Writing for Retail Week, BRC representatives said: “The new charge in England is not consistent with those already operating in the other UK nations, is not logical and leaves retailers with complex messages to communicate to shoppers as to why some shops and some non-reusable bags are exempt from the charge and why these exemptions do not exist elsewhere in the UK.”

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already have the levy, which applies to all retailers regardless of size.

Retailers are not legally obliged to pass proceeds onto the Government, but most are expected to give the money to good causes.

Under the Government's new rule-book shoppers will not be charged for plastic bags which are used for:
  • Uncooked fish
  • Uncooked meat and poultry
  • Takeaways
  • Loose seeds and flowers
  • Unwrapped blades, including axes, knives, and knife and razor blades
  • Prescription medicine
  • Goldfish

The Government rules also list a series of bags which should not incur a 5p charge, including:
  • "Woven" plastic bags
  • Bags used to deliver goods bought online
  • Re-usable bags for life
  • Those used by dry cleaning or shoe repair shops

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