Sunday 1 October marks the sixth anniversary of the introduction of the Single Use Carrier Bag charge in Wales. Whilst applauding the incredible results that the introduction of the levy has brought about, environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy urges consumers and retailers alike not to become complacent.

The single use carrier bag charge was introduced in 2011 as part of part of the Welsh Government’s strategy to minimise the proportion of waste going to landfill. Six years on and four years early, Wales has announced that it has met the 64% target of waste to be recycled by 2019-20. The country has reached the number three spot in world recycling tables, and the number two spot in Europe, well ahead of the rest of the UK.

According to a survey published by Cardiff University in September 2016[i], 80% of people in Wales are in favour of the single use carrier bag charge and it’s encouraging to to see this demonstrated by a significant reduction in the use of bags since 2011. It is now second nature for most people in Wales to take their own bags when shopping and reuse bags regularly. Could we do more, however? Interestingly, whilst across large supermarkets, single use bag use has reduced significantly, there has been less of an impact on unbranded bags from smaller outlets. Are we better programmed to remember our own bags for the big shop more so perhaps than the corner shop? Is there still room for a change in behaviour when it comes to picking up takeaways, clothes shopping or for impulse buys?

There are always going to be times when people will need to purchase a carrier bag, it is crucial therefore to both consider the type of bag purchased and ensure that the proceeds from these bags benefit the environment. Again, Wales is one step ahead of the rest of the UK, in this regard. Under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, retailers are now required to donate their net proceeds from the sale of single-use bags to charitable purposes that specifically relate to environmental protection or improvement and which benefits Wales.

Keep Wales Tidy works with businesses and retailers across Wales to ensure that the levy is reinvested into the environment. Over the past few years, the charity has received donations from household names such as Argos, KFC and John Lewis, as well as many independent village shops and local takeaways.

Lesley Jones, Chief Executive for Keep Wales Tidy said:

We’re enormously grateful for the support from retailers across Wales who have chosen us as their nominated charity. With the money that has been donated, we’ve been able to support groups and volunteers who work tirelessly to make a difference in their communities.

Wales led the way on long-term behaviour change by becoming the first country in the UK to introduce a charge for the single use of carrier bags. We need to build on this success by continuing to explore alternative and innovative approaches to tackling litter.

The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 gives ministers the power to extend the charge to other types of carrier bags, such as ‘bags for life’. Keep Wales Tidy supports an extension of the charge, particularly in Wales, where public support and understanding of the importance of reducing the overall use of carrier bags is extremely high. In time it is hoped that this support and legislation will also extend to other types of single use items, such as takeaway coffee cups.

As a nation Wales should be proud of the last six years, leading the UK with both its outlook, legislation and results. Keep Wales Tidy will continue to campaign for and drive improvement whilst ensuring that all support received benefits the people and environment of our beautiful country.

[i] Poortinga, W. Sautkina, E. Thomas, G.O, and Wolstenholme, E. (2016). The English plastic bag charge:

Changes in attitudes and behaviour. Cardiff : Welsh School of Architecture/School of Psychology, Cardiff University.

Tâl bag siopa untro: bagiau o gyfle i gael effaith bositif