The Government has published draft legislation regarding the new 5p levy for single-use carrier bags. 

Much to the dismay – and frustration – of the NFRN and its members, and despite our calls for the contrary, small shopkeepers will be excluded from applying the charge.

We believe a carrier bag levy is a positive step in the fight against litter, and a huge opportunity to discourage the use of environmentally damaging bags will be lost if the levy only applies to the large stores.

The draft regulations from Defra, published just before Christmas, state that only retailers with 250 employers or more will be required to apply the 5p charge from October 5.

As responsible retailers, NFRN members see this levy as a way they can help the environment, while giving something back to the communities they serve.

You only need to look to Northern Ireland, where carrier bag usage has fallen by 72% since the 5p levy was introduced in 2013. About 215million fewer bags have been used and £4.1m has been raised for environmen-tal projects.

It is a nonsense to stop small shopkeepers from being included when the levy takes effect in England. It will cause confusion among customers and will not have the positive impact on the environment seen in Northern Ireland and other countries, where the charge is applied by all stores.

To avoid any administrative burdens on small shopkeepers, however, England can follow the lead of Scotland and Wales and exempt smaller shopkeepers from reporting requirements. 

The NFRN has launched an e-petition calling on Govern-ment to rethink its proposals and bring the levy in across the board, but with reporting requirements dependent on the size of the shop.

It is available on the Government’s e-petition website, and reads: “We call on the Government to include small and medium-sized businesses in the upcoming Carrier Bag Levy legislation as a means to protect the environment and reduce complexity of the levy.”

Please support us by signing the petition now to make sure our voice is heard by those in Westminster who can act before it is too late.