Why everyone should have to pay for plastic bags

7 October 2011

In Wales you now have to pay 5p for a single-use plastic bag in a shop, and I don’t understand why this rule is not enforced anywhere else in the UK.

Last year, supermarket customers used 6.4 billion of these bags - which take between 500 and 1,500 years to decompose - across the UK. Local authorities are spending an excessive amount clearing them up and this could easily be solved if people were more willing to reuse their shopping bags.

Although I’m anti-using plastic bags I’m not completely innocent. I have several fabric shopping bags lying around my flat but more often than not I end up at Sainsbury’s without them having to use yet more plastic bags.

The thing is I don’t resent having to pay for another one, and if this was enforced it would probably spur me on to remember to bring my own reusable bags.

This debate splits most of my friends as there are those who completely reject the idea that, in these cash-strapped times, we should have to fork out for plastic bags whenever we’re buying anything and those, who like me, think a small fee should be introduced.

David Cameron has threatened to introduce laws forcing retailers to cut the number of plastic bags they issue if they fail to do so voluntarily – but these look like empty threats.  The fact is that the number of single-use bags was up in 2010, and without charges for using them, this number will carry on rising.

A recent survey of 2,444 British adults by YouGov found that 63% supported the move to bring in a charge for carrier bags handed out in shops so why is there such a delay in implementing this?

It’s ludicrous that in the 21st century we have such an outdated view on this. Our Welsh neighbours now have to pay 5p for single use carrier bags thanks to the powers of the Welsh Assembly so why can’t the same happen here?