Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

5p plastic bag tax has been effective


Retailers in England moaned about having to charge customers 5p for single-use plastic bags and the government dragged its feet.

P1030059The good news is that since introducing the tax the number of bags in use has fallen by 85% or six billion.

That’s a lot of bags, almost 100 for every one in the UK.

The money raised by the tax goes to charitable causes. Most are environmental projects but some supermarkets have committed to help dementia research at UCL.

Some supermarkets give all the money less VAT to to charity while others make deductions

Overall the scheme has succeeded in producing benefits to wild life and the environment.

England might have come late to the party – long after countries like Denmark, Brazil, China, Mexico, Morocco, sub-saharan African states, Ireland, Wales and Scotland  – but it made good in the end.

Now let’s tackle plastic micro-beads!

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Charge for plastic bags

In 2006 11 billion single-use bags were used each year.

By 2009 this had dropped to just over 6 billion but now it has started to rise again and last year we used nearly 7 billion.

And that’s just bags supplied by Asda, the Co-op Group, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

The environmental impact is well known (see my post last year about this topic).

Bag use can be reduced. Ireland reduced their consumption by 90% when they introduced a charge in 2002 and now the average number of bags used per person each year is 27 compared with 220 in Britain.

In Wales shoppers will be charged 5p a bag from October and already  use has dropped by 7%, presumably because it has focused attention on the issue.

As usual England lags behind. The government is talking about charging because the voluntary pledge by supermarkets to cut bag usage in half has failed but , surprise, surprise, the big retailers are against it.

The head of environment at the British Retail Consortium thinks the latest figures (a 12% increase) are encouraging and said; “An obsession with carrier bags shouldn’t get in the way of bigger green goals” referring to energy use, waste, and the impact of the products people buy.

Well they could make a start with packaging, half of which is unnecessary and used for security or to make a statement on a shelf. I buy Apple products regularly and they have considerably reduced their packaging. I still have the box my first iPod came in and it’s a work of art but now they just come in a bubble pack or similar, and it’s the same with the computers and the software.

But back to bags. Just charge people for them. Everyone knows it works and not just in Ireland. M&S and Ikea reduced bag use by 80-90% when they started charging for them.