This month (October 2016) marks the five year anniversary of the introduction of the Single Use Carrier Bag charge in Wales. 

On 1 October 2011 Wales became the first country in the United Kingdom to introduce a minimum charge of 5p on all single use carrier bags. In the intervening five years the policy has resulted in a significant reduction in the use of these types of bags and an increase in support among consumers for the charge. Following this success, other countries across the UK have adopted similar policies.

 A recent study published by Cardiff University revealed:

  • Of 1,143 shoppers observed leaving four supermarkets in Cardiff only 14% were seen to be carrying out their shopping in just single use bags (compared to 57% using bags for life).
  • Only a small percentage of shoppers surveyed in Wales said they now “often/always” buy single use carriers when doing their main food shopping.
  • Support for the charge in Wales had increased from 75% to 80% over the period of the study.

Keep Wales Tidy, one of Wales’ leading environmental charities, is keen to highlight the positive impact the legislation has on the wider environment, as well as stressing the importance of the 5p donations being reinvested back into communities and the environment.

Positive impact on our environment: 

  • Two-thirds (66%) of people surveyed by Welsh Government agreed with the statement ‘The charge has helped to reduce littering in my local authority area’.
  • Due to the significant shift in demand away from single use bag varieties to re- usable bag types (plastic or fabric), it is estimated that benefits of between £0.9 million and £1.3 million have been achieved for the period October 2011– January 2015.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said:

We were proud to become the first country in the UK to introduce a small charge for the single use of carrier bags. We introduced the policy with the intention of reducing litter, improving the appearance of our communities and influencing consumer behaviour.  I think we can all agree it has been a resounding success.

This is an area where, along with our recycling rates, Wales truly leads the way. In introducing the charge in 2011 we were the pioneers of a policy with multiple benefits which has now been welcomed across the UK.

We are now looking at how we can build on the success of the charge.  New powers in the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 will open the way for further developments to enable Wales to take the lead in recycling and re-use across Europe.

Keep Wales Tidy supports long-term behaviour change, with the single use carrier bag levy being an example of how a levy, paired with education and awareness raising can help change behaviour and encourage people to reuse and recycle.

The charity works with businesses and retailers across Wales to ensure that the levy (5p’s) can be reinvested back into the environment to help maintain and improve communities as well as using donations to help support 200,000 volunteers Wales-wide in their local environmental improvement projects.

Well Pharmacy have just announced their support for Keep Wales Tidy, donating their single use carrier bag charge to the charity to help support communities:

Tim Davies, Chief Operating Officer, Well, said:

Well is delighted and proud to support the valuable work of Keep Wales Tidy to improve the local environment for our customers and the localities we serve.  As a company that cares deeply about the unique role we can play to serve our community, we welcome the opportunity to give back and make a difference.  It is therefore our great pleasure to donate all profits from the 5p carrier bag tax to such a valuable cause that is dedicated to protecting and preserving the local environment that is home to our customers and their families.

Lesley Jones, Chief Executive for Keep Wales Tidy said:

I’m delighted that Wales is leading the way in this type of behaviour change- it’s critical that we change our ways to help improve the environment and communities that we live in. We can’t continue to live in a ‘throw-away’ society and so it’s crucial that everyone realises the negative impact that plastic and other litter has on our communities. With the right mix of education, enforcement, awareness raising and collaboration- we can all contribute to a safer, cleaner and healthier Wales for now and for the future.

5p carrier bag charge turns 5!