£1.5bn cost of paying for bags

Discarded plastic bags damage the environment.
Discarded plastic bags damage the environment.
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The new 5p plastic bag charge will cost £1.5 billion over the next decade, with households taking a £67 hit, the TaxPayers’ Alliance claim.

Ahead of new rules coming into force on October 5, the pressure group said it was “to all intents and purposes a shopping tax which will add more to the cost of living for families throughout England.”

Controversially their researchers argue it will achieve only “minimal” benefit for the environment as plastic bags account for less than two per cent of household waste and they claim people will use more resource-intensive bags like bin liners instead.

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A study suggests that the 5p charge will cost £1.1 billion, with substitute bags for life and bin liners costing £348 million, extra VAT £70 million and taxpayer enforcement £5m. Chief executive Jonathan Isaby said: “This appears to be a very ill-considered policy which will fail to achieve its stated aims.”

However environmentalists point to the dramatic changes in shopping habits where a charge has been introduced. Wales was the first in the UK to introduce the charge, followed by Northern Ireland in April 2013 and Scotland last October, where 147 million less bags were used just in the last quarter of the year. In Wales use of plastic bags has dropped 78 per cent and 71 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Last year British shoppers took home 8.5 billion single use bags - up 200m from 2013.

A spokeswoman for Keep Britain Tidy said it wasn’t a tax as people had a choice whether to pay it, adding: “If the charge can reduce the amount used by 70 per cent of 8 billion that is a significant decrease. The life span of a single use bag is just 20 minutes; most people just put them in the bin, and we know they end up on the floor as litter.”

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