Plastic Bags

Introducing a Voluntary Charge for Plastic Bags

ACS is encouraging all small shops to introduce a 5p charge for plastic bags in store to reduce the amount of bags given out, help the environment, and raise money for charity. 

Currently, only large retailers (with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees) are legally required to charge a minimum of 5p (including VAT) for every single-use plastic bag in England. Smaller retailers are not legally required to charge but can do so on a voluntary basis. 

More details on the benefits of a plastic bag charge can be found in the short video below. We have also produced handy guidance and a poster for retailers to use in store, which explain the bag charge to customers and staff. 

England (Large Businesses)

Who is included in the charge?

All large businesses with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees have to charge a minimum of 5p for every single-use carrier bag. Small or medium sized businesses are not required to charge by law.

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.

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 5p 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:

  • charge at least 5p 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

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

 

Scotland

Who is included in the charge?

Since 20th October 2014, 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?

For bags made wholly or mainly from plastic then the bag is considered to be a single use carrier bag if either of the following apply:

  • Made of thin plastic (any part of the bag has a thickness of no more than 49 microns); or
  • Less than 439mm x 404mm when laid flat (excluding the handles); or
  • Other plastic bags, bags made wholly or mainly from paper, plant based material (other than cotton, flax, hemp, jute or sisal) or natural starch are also seen as single use carrier bags, unless the bag is a multi-use bag.

What bags don’t I charge for?

  • Returnable to the retailer from whom it was purchased to be replaced free of charge when it is worn out.
  • Clearly marked that it can be returned and replaced in this way.
  • Unpackaged food for human or animal consumption; such as loose fruit and vegetables, bakery items, pick and mix sweets and dry animal food.
  • Unpackaged loose seeds, bulbs, corms or rhizomes, such as grass seeds, daffodil bulbs or root ginger.
  • Any unpackaged axe, knife, knife blade or razor blades; such as a kitchen knife which is mounted on cardboard but not then enclosed in wrapping.
  • Unpackaged goods contaminated by soil; such as soil, compost, potted plants, fishing bait and wormery worms.
  • Certain medicinal products; such as fullfilling prescription requests and pharmacy medication which can only be dispensed by a qualified pharmacist.

What else do I have to do?

If your business employs 10 or more full-time equivalent members of staff you have a requirement to keep, retain and produce a record of information about the single-use carrier bags supplied and the money received as a result of having to charge for bags.

The information recorded must include the following details:

  • The number of chargeable single use carrier bags supplied
  • Price charged per bag
  • Total income received arising from the charge
  • A breakdown of specified overheads incurred (VAT if applicable, costs reasonably incurred to comply with the Regulations and communicate information about the charge to customers)
  • Net proceeds of the charge (Amount received by way of the charge less cost of these overheads)

The reporting year will always start on 7 April each year. Records must be retained for a 3 year period. The retention period begins on 31 May following the end of the reporting year in question.

What do I do with the money raised?

The Scottish Government encourages retailers to donate the proceeds of the charge to good causes in Scotland, particularly ones that benefit the environment and to publish information on donations.

More information about the carrier bag charge can be found here: http://carrierbagchargescotland.org.uk/

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