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The 5p charge for a single-use plastic carrier bag has doubled to 10p from today to help save the environment. The price increase is going to apply to all businesses across England unlike before, where only larger companies with 250 employees or more had to apply the charge.
The government is hoping that the use of plastic carrier bags will fall by 70-80 per cent in small and medium sized business. The change is also expected to add almost £300m to the UK economy over the next 10 years.
In October 2015, a 5p charge was introduced for single use plastic bags to reduce litter and to tackle the growing issue of climate change. Plastic bags take longer than other bags to degrade in the environment and can damage wildlife. They also tend to look very drab when littered across towns, parks and the countryside.
Since then, there has been a 95 per cent drop in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets. Before the policy came into force, billions of single-use plastic bags were given to customers.
In 2014 alone over 7.6 billion were handed to customers by major supermarkets, which is close to 140 bags per person, the government said at the time. This has now dropped to just four.
The charge on plastic bags has also led to retailers donating over £150 million to good causes in charity, volunteering, environment and health sectors, the government said on Friday.
Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said: "The introduction of the 5p charge has been a phenomenal success, driving down sales of harmful plastic bags in supermarkets by a remarkable 95 per cent.
"We know we must go further to protect our natural environment and oceans, which is why we are now extending this charge to all businesses.
"Over the next couple of weeks, I urge all retailers of all sizes to make sure they are ready for the changes, as we work together to build back greener and strengthen our world-leading action to combat the scourge of plastic waste."
However, some experts have issued a warning about the growing use of "bags for life" which may only be used once. Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at the charity WRAP, welcomed the increase in price from 5p to 10p but said "bags for life" are still an issue.
"The introduction of a charge has had a significant influence in reducing the number of bags purchased at stores," she said. "I'm confident that the increase to 10p and the extension across all shops will continue this decline."
She added: "However, there are reports of increased purchasing of so-called 'bags for life', likely being used just once. To truly benefit the planet, bags, regardless of what they are made from, need to be reused many times over. Once they are worn out they can be recycled, or in the case of 'bags for life', replaced for free by supermarkets."