UK to increase plastic bag charge, extend to all retailers

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SMEs supply over 3.4 billion single-use plastic bags per year.

The United Kingdom government is planning to extend the single-use plastic bag charge to all retailers and increase the minimum charge to at least 10 pence.

In an Aug. 30 statement, the government announced plans to launch a consultation later this year to extend the 5 pence plastic charge to all retailers and not just big businesses.

According to the department for environment, food & rural affairs (DEFRA) small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which has thus far been exempt from the plastic bag charge, supply an estimated 3.4 billion single-use plastic bags per year.

Trade bodies representing 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5 pence charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England’s estimated 220,000 SMEs.

The consultation will also explore the possibility of potentially doubling the 5p minimum charge to encourage further behavior change.

The 5p charge was introduced in 2015 in England, leading to a decline in plastic bag sales by 86 percent in the past two years.

The move, according to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, has taken 13 billion plastic bags out of circulation in the last two years.

The announcement came during Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Kenya, where she has announced a further six African Commonwealth Countries (Seychelles, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Namibia and the Gambia) joining the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA).

The Alliance, launched in April, sees countries across the Commonwealth join forces in the fight against plastic wastes.

As part of the effort, the United Kingdom will provide up to an additional £5 million (€6.42 million) in funding to assist CCOA countries in their action against plastics waste.

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