England’s 5p plastic carrier bag charge is to be doubled to 10p, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced today.
The levy will also be extended to all shops, including smaller outlets which supply 3.6-billion single-use plastic bags to customers each year but are currently exempt.
Schools in England are also going to be told to do more to cut down on their use of plastic, replacing straws, bottles and packaging with sustainable materials.
The changes are part of a government consultation on reducing the consumer use of plastic and they could come into force by as early as January, 2020.
Gove said: “Today’s announcement will accelerate further behaviour change and build on the success of the existing charge.”
Around 15 billion single-use plastic bags have been removed since the 5p levy was brought in three years ago – with the millions of pounds raised going to good causes.
According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.an estimated £51m was donated in 2017-18.
Tesco topped the charts, raising around £13m, followed by Asda (£8m) and the Co-op Group (£6m).
Although smaller stores are exempt, around half have applied the 5p charges voluntarily, says trade body The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
The ACS supports Defra’s plans to double the fee and extend it to all stores, says its chief executive James Lowman.
He added: “This has been shown to be highly effective at reducing waste, whilst also raising money for local, national and environmental charities.”
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says the charges have helped to reduced plastic waste on beaches and at sea.
MCS Oceanographer Laura Foster said: “We’ve seen that since the introduction of the plastic bag charge in the UK the amount we find on beaches has gone down.
Ms Foster, head of MCS Clean Seas, added that offshore studies had also recorded a fall in the number of plastic bags found.