UK to Extend Plastic Bag Charge to All Retailers – and Maybe Double It

by | Jan 3, 2019

Small retailers in the UK may soon be subject to the same plastic bag charge that large retailers must pay; the UK government has launched an eight-week consultation to explore the possibility of extending the existing plastic bag charge of 5 pence (7 cents) to all retailers, and to consider increasing the charge to 10 pence.

The current plastic bag charge, which applies only to big businesses, has been successful in decreasing the use of plastic bags, according to Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Since the charge went into effect, plastic bag sales in major supermarkets have dropped by 86%, taking 13 billion bags out of circulation in the last two years, Gove said (via Retail Insights Network).

Europe produces 25 million tons of plastic waste per year, with less than 30% being collected for recycling, according to the European Commission, which adopted a plastics strategy last January. The strategy aims to “protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the Future of Europe.”

The European Commission says there is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. By taking the lead in such a transition, the EU will create new investment opportunities and jobs. Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

One key goal of the strategy is to make recycling profitable for businesses. New rules on the packaging are being developed to improve the recyclability of plastics used on the market and increase the demand for recycled plastic content. Additionally, the Commission will focus on creating a better, standardized system for the collection and sorting of waste across the EU. As more plastic is collected, recycling facilities will be built or scaled up, delivering “greater added value for a more competitive, resilient plastics industry,” the Commission says.

Moves have already been made to carry out the strategy. In October, European Parliament approved a ban on single-use plastics such as utensils, straws and cotton swabs.


Plastics Strategy Fact Sheets

In conjunction with the publication of the plastics strategy, the European Commission released fact sheets that clarify its goals of a circular economy for plastics.

As one fact sheet explains, about 80% of all environmental impacts are determined in the design phase of products:

“Design has a direct impact on the recyclability of plastics and affects the possibility for products and waste materials to find their way back to the market. With the Plastics Strategy, the Commission aims to encourage and support product design choices which take into account the entire life cycle of plastics and plastic products, making them more durable, reusable and easily recyclable. As packaging is one of the main uses of plastics, by 2030 all plastic packaging should be recyclable.”

Fact sheets include:

Turning today’s challenges into opportunities – a European strategy for plastics in a circular economy

EU leading global action – a European strategy for plastics in a circular economy

A strong and sustainable European plastics industry

A plastics strategy to protect Europe’s citizens and the environment

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