Last year, over 7bn carrier bags were issued by supermarkets in England and the Government says that far too many of these ended up in landfill, blighted streets and rivers killed wildlife, which costs tax-payers millions of pounds to clean-up.
The bag levy is due to commence in almost two years time, after the 2015 General election.
Similar charges in Ireland, Wales and Switzerland have led to an 80 percent reduction in the number of carrier bags issued.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said: “Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside. They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals.
Nick Clegg – “This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now. The charge will be implemented sensibly – small businesses will be exempt”
“This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now. The charge will be implemented sensibly – small businesses will be exempt.
“We will discuss with retailers how the money raised should be spent but I call on them to follow the lead of industry in Wales and donate the proceeds to charity.”
Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said: “We have all seen the effects of discarded plastic bags caught in trees and hedges or ending up in rivers where they harm animals.
“Introducing a small charge for plastic bags will make people think twice before throwing them away. Year on year, the number of bags issued by retailers has been rising. Without a charge, the problem could escalate out of control and see our environment and animals suffer enormously.
“There are also plans to incentivise businesses for bringing biodegradable plastic bags to market in England. Provided the bags meet the required criteria, these could be exempt from a charge.”
It’s expected that the charging scheme in England will follow the Welsh model in which retailers voluntarily give profits to charity. Small businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be exempt from the charge to ensure that they are not disproportionately burdened by the charges.
The Government will also incentivise biodegradable bags. A new high standard for these products will be developed with manufactures. Bags that meet that standard will be exempt from the charge.
CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “This is a good move, and evidence from elsewhere in the UK shows that positive results can be achieved quickly. In Wales, for example, carrier bag usage has decreased by as much as 90 percent since the 5p charge was introduced. Despite this, we must be careful to ensure that a carrier bag levy is not seen as the end of the issue.
“The carrier bag levy will help protect against the disproportionate impact these bags have on aquatic animals in particular, however the impact of the charge on the scourge of littering in general and on waste prevention will be much less, and CIWM wants to see much more from governments and other key bodies in to effectively tackle these areas.
“We must, for example, prioritise raising awareness of the environmental costs attributable to the products we place in the carrier bag, rather than the carrier bag itself. Food waste is a huge global problem that costs lives as well as money, and we must continue to push home the point that continually throwing away our consumables is not sustainable.
“A carrier bag levy is an important first step, and CIWM is also delighted to see that all proceeds arising from England’s carrier bag charge are set to be donated to selected good causes.”