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Plastic Bags

Introducing a Voluntary Charge for Plastic Bags

ACS is encouraging all small shops to charge for plastic bags in store to reduce the amount of bags given out, help the environment, and raise money for charity. 

Dependent on nation, retailers of a certain size are required to record and report the number of plastic bags sold on an annual basis. More information is detailed below.

More details on the benefits of a plastic bag charge can be found in the short video below.

Additional information for retailers can be found here.

England

Who is included in the charge?

From 21st May, all businesses regardless of size are required by law to charge a minimum of 10p for every single-use carrier bag.

Convenience retailers who are members of a symbol group or franchise model only need to count the employees in the businesses/stores that they own and run.

ACS has a new poster available for retailers to communicate the 10p charge, which can be downloaded here.

What bags do I charge for?

A bag is considered as such if it has an opening and isn’t sealed. You must charge at least 10p a bag for carrier bags that are all of the following:

  • unused – it’s new and hasn’t been used previously for sold goods to be taken away or delivered
  • plastic
  • with handles
  • 70 microns thick or less

What bags don’t I charge for?

You don’t charge for plastic bags that are:

  • for uncooked fish and fish products
  • for uncooked meat, poultry and their products
  • for unwrapped food for animal or human consumption – for example, chips, or food sold in containers not secure enough to prevent leakage during normal handling
  • for unwrapped loose seeds, flowers, bulbs, corns, rhizomes (roots, stems and shoots, such as ginger) or goods contaminated by soil (such as potatoes or plants)
  • for unwrapped blades, including axes, knives, and knife and razor blades
  • for prescription medicine
  • woven plastic bags
  • for goods in transport, such as at an airport or on a train, plane or ship
  • returnable multiple reuse bags (bags for life)
  • used to give away free promotional material

What else do I have to do?

For every bag that you charge for, you must:

Larger retailers:

  • charge at least 10p a bag (including any VAT)
  • make every effort to ensure that you’re charging for self-checkout bags
  • keep a reporting year’s records for 3 years from 31 May in the following reporting year (eg you must keep the records for 5 October 2015 to 6 April 2016 until 31 May 2019)
  • send records to Defra on or before 31 May following the end of the reporting year

You must also record for the whole reporting year:

  • the number of bags supplied
  • the gross and net proceeds of the charge
  • any VAT in the gross proceeds
  • what you did with the proceeds from the charge
  • any reasonable costs and how they break down

Smaller retailers:

  • Small retailers with under 250 employees are not required by law to record and report how many bags they sell.

What do I do with the money raised?

Once you’ve deducted reasonable costs, it’s expected that you’ll donate all proceeds to good causes.

How do I send my records to Defra?

You must send the following details to Defra once a year:

  • the number of bags you distributed
  • the amount of money you received from selling bags
  • any VAT you had to pay from the money you received
  • what you did with the proceeds from bags
  • details of the ‘reasonable costs’ you had to pay to provide bags

This information will be made public.

You must send these details for each reporting period by 31 May the following year. 

You must send your name and email to PlasticBagCharge@defra.gsi.gov.uk. If you send your name and email before the deadline you’ll get advice on how to report, and get reminders about when to report.

What happens if I don’t charge correctly?

The following monetary penalties apply:

  • Fixed Penalty Fines
     
    • Not charging for bags appropriately: £200
    • Not keeping records: £100
    • Not supplying records: £100
  • Variable Penalty Fines
     
    • Not charging for bags appropriately: £5,000
    • Not keeping records: £5,000
    • Not supplying records: £5,000
    • Giving false or misleading information to, or otherwise obstructing or failing to assist the local authority: £20,000

More information about England’s carrier bag charge can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/carrier-bag-charges-retailers-responsibilities

Downloadable Resources

Defra has produced some posters for retailers to download, print and display in stores, and also some resources for retail staff.

Click here to download PDF files for printing, and image files for use on social media.

Wales

Who is included in the charge?

Since 1st October 2011, all businesses are required to charge a minimum of 5p for every single-use carrier bag given to customers.

What bags do I charge for?

All types of single use carrier bags are included in the charge.

This includes:

  • paper
  • plastic
  • part plastic
  • recycled and
  • degradable plastic

These bags are not designed to be re-used time and time again.

What bags don’t I charge for?

Bags that are not covered by the charge include those made from:

  • cloth
  • jute
  • cotton
  • hessian

Other exemptions include:

  • Food items that are unwrapped – loose fruit and vegetables, bread, pick and mix sweets etc. This includes food items that are partly unwrapped – food placed in a sleeve or other part open wrapper.
  • Loose seeds, bulbs, corms or rhizomes – loose grass seed, flower bulbs, seed potatoes etc.
  • Unpackaged blades – axe, knife blade or razor blade.
  • Unpackaged plants or flowers that could have been contaminated by soil.
  • Packaged uncooked: fish or fish products; meat or meat products; poultry or poultry products.
  • Very small plastic bags that do not have handles and are no more than 125mm (width) x 125mm (height).  These could be used for very small items such as buttons or small screws.
  • Small three dimensional paper bags that do not have a handle and are no more than 80mm (width) x 50mm (gusset width) x 155mm (height).  These are about the size of bottle of cough mixture.

What else do I have to do?

All retailers that employ 10 or more staff and charge for single use carrier bags are required by law to keep an accurate record for every reporting year. The reporting year runs from 7 April to 6 April.

Records must be kept for three years from 31 May in the following year.

The record must contain:

  • the number of single use carrier bags charged for;
  • the gross (total) amount received from charging for single use carrier bags. So if you charge 10p per bag you would count the total here;
  • the gross (total) proceeds of the charge;
  • the net (final amount after deductions) proceeds of the charge;
  • a breakdown of the difference between the gross and net proceeds including the deduction of VAT and the deductions for “reasonable costs”; and
  • what you have done with the net proceeds.

What do I do with the money raised?

The Regulations do not specify where the proceeds of the charge should go. However, the Welsh Assembly expects the proceeds to be passed on to charities or good causes in Wales, and in particular to environmental projects.

More information about the carrier bag charge can be found here: http://www.carrierbagchargewales.gov.uk/retailers/?lang=en