5p Plastic Bag Charge in the UK

As of 5th October 2015, there is now a 5p charge on each carrier bag taken when shopping. Whether doing the weekly food shop or buying some new clothes, the plastic carrier bags readily available from shops previously for free will now carry a minimum charge of 5p per bag used.

Why is this charge being introduced?

With the environment an ongoing concern for governments, bodies and the general public around the country as well as the rest of the world, there are constant efforts to better the state of the environment. Coming from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the move comes with the aim of stopping the unnecessary use of plastic carrier bags, along with the tonnes of litter they account for each year that has such damaging effects on our wildlife and greater ecological systems.

This newest initiative hopes to see a 75 per cent decrease in carrier bag usage in the coming years, with the treasury set to gain an impressive £19m each year from this scheme. As well as this, the money saved in litter clean-up costs is expected to be around £60m, with overall generation of profit from the scheme being around £730m. This money will be used towards charitable organisations and other good causes; a worthy result for such a simple change in consumer behaviour.


Though the majority of goods bought from shops do not merit the free use of a carrier bag, some – by law – will continue to be offered with a free plastic carrier bag, whether this be for purposes of hygiene or safety. These exemptions include:

  • Bags intended for the purpose of containing wholly or partly unwrapped food for human or animal consumption (food safety purposes)
  • Bags intended for carrying goods in transit (convenience purposes)
  • Bags to hold prescription medicines (legal privacy requirements of pharmacists and confidentiality)
  • Bags intended for the containment of wholly or partly unwrapped blades (for safety)


As well as these exemptions, reusable carrier bags which can be purchased from shops and supermarkets will be charged a certain amount but, when brought along by customers, will not be charged for their usage. Indeed when purchasing one of these bags, the 5p charge will not be additional to their existing cost. The purchase of a reusable shopping bag has always been highly encouraged, and now with the introduction of this charge it could not only save on environmental impact but also save customers a large amount of money in the long term.

With the charge now in effect, consumers can no longer have the excuse of putting off their environmentally conscious shopping habits and opting for reusable shopping bags over plastic ones. Though 5p may not seem a huge amount on one occasion, just a few large food shops could see the pounds stacking up which, in our finance-conscious economy, is something the consumer is bound to be put off by.

Full details on guidelines for retailers can be found on GOV.UK.

Here at Brown Recycling, we are committed to doing our bit for the environment, which is why we adhere to our zero-to-landfill commitment wherever is possible. For waste collection or recycling at your commercial or domestic property throughout Stoke and the surrounding areas, contact our friendly team today and we’ll be happy to help find the right solution for you to ensure you and your premises are as environmentally friendly as can be.


This website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and deliver personalised ads. By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

More Information Accept All Cookies