Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the 5p charge for carrier bags in England, with campaigners hailing the charge as a success after bag usage fell by more than six billion in the past 12 months.
However, while supermarkets and larger businesses celebrated their achievements, the convenience sector was left wondering why small businesses still haven’t been included in the scheme.
Existing schemes in Scotland and Wales have been successful in reducing bag usage without any negative effects for convenience retailers, so what makes England so different?
The official line from DEFRA is that they want to reduce red tape for small businesses and don’t want to introduce new legislation, but the benefits of the charge are abundantly clear.
Our message to Government on this issue is clear. A bottle deposit return scheme would be impractical, unaffordable and ineffective
Not only will retailers be able to recover the costs of the bags they do sell under the charging scheme, but they’ll be able to raise more money for local causes as a result of the charge, and overall it will mean that there is no longer confusion about who is charging and who isn’t.
It is a simple, elegant solution that the public has adapted to, and it’s beyond time that the Government takes action to make the charge universal.
On the morning of the anniversary of the bag charge, we were called up to a plastic recycling plant near Wigan to debate the merits of introducing a deposit returns scheme for bottles on breakfast television.
While the bag charge is a simple solution with generally positive consequences for retailers, a bottle returns scheme where an extra charge is placed on each bottle, then returned to the consumer when they return the bottle (likely to a machine) would be quite the opposite.
The costs of installing these reverse vending machines can run up to £30,000, and with half of the convenience sector operating in stores under 1000sq ft, where are these units going to be put?
Our message to Government on this issue is clear. A bottle deposit return scheme would be impractical, unaffordable and ineffective.
The Government should focus on making kerbside recycling collections more efficient, and while they’re at it, amend the carrier bag regulations so that everyone can be involved.