Today, England’s shopper will say goodbye to free carrier bags and will now have to fork out 5p for every new single use carrier bag they use when they do their shop. There has been uproar up and down the country with people complaining about the cost, about the fact that they use their bags for other things, such as bin bags, picking up dogs mess and a variety of other uses. About the fact they can’t hoard carriers in every drawer or cupboard.
But the reality?
As always it’s the negative voices that usually shout loudest and of course, the majority of people know that this is the right thing to do, the way forward. If your not convinced or are unsure about the carrier bag levy, here are some facts and advice from me to you.
England is last of the home nations to bring in the 5p charge. Here in Wales, we have had the levy in place since 2011, Northern Ireland since 2013 and Scotland since last year. We have all managed to survive shopping with the charge in place, we have also gotten quite good at balancing things on top of each other after picking up more items than we were expecting!
Also England, I’d just like to point out that you will be having it easier than the rest of us. Your 5p charge will only apply to plastic bags whereas Wales and Scotland’s applies to all ‘single use’ carrier bags, including paper. Northern Ireland has it even stricter having to pay, a minimum of, 5p for bags made from plastic, paper, plant-based materials and even natural starch!
I have also found out this morning that England’s 5p charge will only affect large stores, like supermarkets, chain stores and those that have over 250 employees. In Scotland Northern Ireland and Wales ALL retailers, even your tiny local chippy or corner shop, have to charge.
- Take all your carrier bags that are hidden around the house fold some up small and put one in all your coat pockets and bags that are likely to come with you to the shop, even on an impromptu visit. Then put some in your car and in the basket of your pram. Put the rest near the front door so they are visible when you leave the house.
- If you have the cash, invest in some reusable bags, Primark always have a nice variety of patterned cotton bags, although I wouldn’t laden them down with too many cans. Most supermarkets offer large, strong bags at the checkouts. My favourite has to be the good old Ikea bags though! You can fit two in the bottom of your trolley if your not buying too much, alternatively keep them in the boot of your car and just transfer from the trolley.
- Cardboard boxes are your friend! I don’t really have a boot in my car (it’s more like a van with seats) so I have a long shallow cardboard box that fits snuggly between the back seats and the rear doors that I put my smaller shopping in to stop it rolling all around the car. Good thing is, that cardboard boxes can be picked up free from the same shops that will charge you for a carrier.
- If you are a fan of internet shopping, remember to read closely before you click pay. When you are buy from a supermarket there will be a blanket charge of 30p (that’s what it is for us anyway) to have your shopping delivered in carrier bags, but you can choose not to pay this just with the click of a button. Depending on the layout of the entry to your house and the size of your shop it might make more sense to pay the 30p and some supermarkets offer a refund for every used carrier bag you hand back to the driver.
- Even though we now have to pay for any new bags we use, the quality of these bags has diminished significantly (a further reason to invest in some reusable ones ASAP) I’m guessing it’s probably because they are biodegradable now? They have also been made much smaller. So watch out if you have boxes with sharp edges and don’t be stingy if you need to carry lot’s of tins or you are likely to be picking them up from the carpark floor!
But mostly, don’t sweat it. You will soon remember to start taking reusable carrier bags with you, the majority of the time at least, and you too will also become a master of holding a small child’s hand while balancing cereal, ham, spaghetti, yoghurt and bananas on top of each other, while your little one drags the bread (the single thing you went in for) across the floor with their other hand!
What do you think about the carrier bag charges?