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Carrier bag charge comes into play

From 21st May, fish and chip shops in England must charge a minimum of 10p (including VAT) for single-use plastic carrier bags.

By increasing the charge and extending it to include all retailers, the government hopes to drive down sales of harmful plastic bags by between 70-80% in small and medium-sized businesses.

It follows a similar trends in major supermarkets where plastic bag sales have fallen by 95% since 2015.

Here’s everything you need to know from what bags you need to charge for, to how it will be enforced. 

Charging for bags

From 21st May 2021, all business in England must charge a minimum of 10p a bag (including VAT) for single-use plastic carrier bags that are all of the following:

  • unused – it’s new and has not already been used for sold goods to be taken away or delivered
  • plastic and 70 microns thick or less
  • it has handles, an opening and is not sealed

Biodegradable bags are not exempt from the charge. And you do not need to charge an extra 10p if you already charge 10p or more for bags.

Posters and online artwork

To help communicate the charge to customers, Defra has produced a range of posters for shops to print and display in store as well as images that can be used online. These can be downloaded here.

Recording sales

Only large retailers will be required to record and report the number of single-use carrier bags they sell in England. A large retailer employs 250 or more full-time equivalent employees (in total and not just in retail roles) in a year. If your store is part of a franchise, you only count employees in your business. For help determining if you are a large employer and for details of what records you need to keep, click here.

Once you’ve deducted reasonable costs, it’s expected that you’ll donate all proceeds to good causes, particularly environmental causes. Reasonable costs do not include the cost of the bags, but can be costs you’ve incurred by following the law on charging, such as staff training and communicating the policy to customers. 

Policing the new charge is the responsibility of your local authority and inspectors can visit your shop unannounced to make a test purchase, speak to staff and demand to see your records.

If you fail to charge for bags you could be fined up to £5,000.

For further guidance, visit www.gov.uk

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