England’s Plastic Bag Tax Having Little Effect On Shoppers’ Behaviour

England’s 5p plastic bag tax should be increased to 20p or even higher, according to BigGreen.co.uk, which found the current price is having little affect on changing shoppers’ behaviour.

Two weeks into the English tax on single use plastic bags in supermarkets, ninety percent of shoppers are still heading out for their weekly shop forgetting their reusable bags, according to a survey conducted by BigGreen.co.uk.

With millions of carriers still being issued by major stores every day, the waste management company says that the levy should be increased to 20p or higher.

“We get through 7bn plastic bags every year,” says BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Johnny Ratcliffe, “and that number’s not going to go down unless people genuinely switch to reusable bags.”

BigGreen.co.uk – “It looks like we’re resistant as a country to such a small charge, and that’s why it should be at least 20p – or perhaps even higher”

The company says English shoppers won’t end their “habit” unless plastic bags are made “truly undesirable”.

It asked over 1500 shoppers about how their habits have changed in the first week of the 5p charge, and found:

  • 89% forgot their reusable bags, or didn’t have bags to begin with
  • 11% brought bags with them
  • 73% paid 5p per bag for one or more single-use bags
  • 21% bought reusable plastic or hessian bags at the till
  • 6% used no bags at all, or improvised

Figures released earlier this year show how successful the policy has been in other parts of the UK where the bag tax has been a reality for one or more years.

Scottish plastic bag use has decreased by 130m bags, or around 80% and in Wales plastic bag use has dropped by 71%, with overall bag use dropping by 57%.

Plastic bag use also has dropped from 190m bags to 30m per year in Northern Ireland.

“From what we’ve heard, the huge, huge majority of people are still putting their hands in their pockets and paying out the 5p,” Radcliffe says.

“That being the case, it looks like we’re resistant as a country to such a small charge, and that’s why it should be at least 20p – or perhaps even higher.”

“Bag For Life” Price Hike

Retailers in England have been accused of “ripping off” their customers by bumping up the price of reusable bags in the wake of the introduction of the plastic bag tax.

A national waste and recycling management company says it has seen stores charging up to £9 for hessian shopping bags, which it says cost pennies to produce.

BusinessWaste.co.uk – “The major pity is that some companies have seen fit to nudge up the prices of their reusable bags as soon as the tax was introduced”

Yorkshire-based BusinessWaste.co.uk says that some major stores are taking advantage of English shoppers as they rush out to buy alternatives to single-use plastic bags, motivated by the almost natural urge to turn a bigger profit.

“Despite all the moaning in the press about the plastic bag tax, it’s a good thing that should be applauded,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “The major pity is that some companies have seen fit to nudge up the prices of their reusable bags as soon as the tax was introduced.”

According to BusinessWaste.co.uk, shoppers have reported inflated prices for different kinds of reusable bags.

  • Stronger plastic bags for £1
  • Hessian bags in supermarkets for £4
  • “Designer” plastic bags are £3
  • “Designer” hessian bags for up to £9

“We’re not in the business of naming-and-shaming retailers, no matter how big or small they are,” says Mark Hall, “But the plain fact is that shops are ripping off customers left, right and centre.”

BusinessWaste.co.uk says that the whole point of the plastic bag tax is to encourage people to get into the habit of shopping with multiple-use bags, rather than use just as many disposable bags as they did before.

But as long as customers are charged £9 for fancy reusable bags, it’s going to be difficult to convince English customers reusable bags are a good idea, Hall says.

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