Following the introduction of the Plastic bag tax in October 2015 there have been several stories reported in the press that Coffee cups and now plastic straws will possibly be subject to the same in order to reduce useage and environmental impact, and the current charge to increase to a whopping £1.00 ( The Express 20th July )
"The only way that can be done is by increasing the charge, while making reusable bags cheap and widely available."
In a poll of 2,000 shoppers results showed that most agreed that the 5p charge was no longer a pinch point , however no figures are given on what consumers think of an increase.
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On it's introduction in October 2015 ( following huge success in Wales , Northern Ireland & Scotland ) the scheme proved popular with the public ( 64% of the public thought this was a good idea according to love money )
Win win right ? By being charged 5p consumers would think twice about wasting unneccasary resources, do their bit for the environment AND donate to local good causes ?
On researching figures , I've been unable to find any recently reported on the income generated - however at the time DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) declared the charge would raise an estimated £730 million for charities in its first decade raising much needed funds.
Government figures released for the first six months of the charge show that, post VAT and other charges, £41.3 million was raised.
Read the full article : Where is the Income going ?
How the charge works
UK retailers with more than 250 members of staff can no longer hand out free single-use bags. Instead, they have to charge 5p.
A few exceptions are in place for unwrapped food, unwrapped blades, loose flowers and seeds and prescriptions.
While smaller firms with under 250 workers don’t have to charge, they can do so voluntarily.
Those who do charge will have to report how many they’ve issued, how much money they’ve generated, how much of it has gone to charity and which charities they’ve gone to.
Though shops are under no legal obligation to give away the money raised by the charge, the Government is urging them to pass it on to good causes.
Breaking down the costs
It’s not as simple as ‘buy a bag and the money gets donated’. Funds from the 5p charge end up in a number of places.
Firstly, bags are still subject to VAT at 20%.
Retailers can also deduct ‘reasonable costs’, which can include things like:
Cost of staff communications: Changes to company’s intranet, connections, meetings;
Cost of customer communications: Posters, signage, social media;
Cost of obtaining advice on the charge: Companies seeking expert advice on how to apply the charge;
Cost of administering donations: Costs of processing large donations from corporations;
Other costs of implementing the charge: Other necessary costs like admin and payroll.
How much each supermarket donates
According to a 2016 report by the Guardian what each supermarket donates varies greatly.
While Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose donated all funds (minus VAT, or 4.16p a bag) , Tesco donated just 3p as it subtracted the costs of administering the scheme, however has given the largest donation of over £25million.
Sainsbury has teamed up with charity Groundwork and is putting proceeds from the charge into a massive pot to be shared between green and community projects across England, Scotland and Wales with it's Bags of Help scheme
As for Sainsbury's, it found the figure was far lower at 1p as it produces a "different type of carrier bag "
Which Supermarket should you support ?
When the charge was introduced Sainburys replaced its normal bags with thicker ones that did'nt meet the criteria for the carrier charge. They do donate some money from sales, however have not declared how much or where the contributions are going.
The supermarket giant said it couldn't reveal such information as it was “commercially sensitive”, although it's believed to be a third less than its rival - however they are giving out fewer overall – 25,078,408 to Tesco’s 319,711,512.
The supermarket said:
“Although our new, reusable bag is not subject to the levy, we are still donating all profits to good causes, alongside the levy charged for the single-use carriers distributed through online orders.
"This will be in addition to what we already raise for charity, which last year was £52 million.
“We think this is the best way to do the right thing for the environment, whilst still supporting good causes.”
Back in February 2016, the Daily Express reported on a woman who went into an Asda every day to buy her lunch - rather than using her own , she bought the 5p carriers to contribute to the dementia centre.
It was revelaed that Asda witheld the 5p carriers and gave out 6p instead - proceeds from the 5p bag go the UCL dementia centre while all of the proceeds of the 6p bag goes straight into Asda’s pocket.
Could there be charges for any other disposable items in future?
Watch this space - Plastic Straws are the latest villian - they take 500 years to break down and the US use over 500 million PER DAY.
A parliamentary petition closed recently with over 3,000 signatures to introduce the 5p tax on straws , however the coffee cup levy seems to have been shelved as the proposal has been rejected by Environment Minister Therese Coffey
Similar schemes have been popular in countries like Germany, Sweden and Norway.
What are you're thoughts ?