Since its introduction the 5p bag charge has caused quite the stir amongst the public, with lots of people unaware of why they’re being charged for a previously free service. At Pockit we don’t want to see you caught out, so here’s a quick guide to the charge.

Why? There’s been a rise in the amount of plastic carrier bags being handed out; in 2014 this rose to 7.64 billion, 200 million more than those handed out in 2013. This is bad for the environment in two ways: it increases the overall waste that has to go into landfill and, as normal plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they just stay there. What’s more, the government is hoping to save £60m on the cost of cleaning up litter, as the charge will hopefully deter people unnecessarily using and throwing away plastic bags.


Who’s going to be charging me? Any retailer with 250 or more full-time employees should be charging for plastic carrier bags, so the rules don’t just apply to supermarkets. Your small local shops aren’t being forced to charge for bags but are allowed to charge if they wish.

What will be charged? This charge is only for plastic carrier bags, so there’s still no forced charge for paper bags as, whilst they are less environmental friendly to produce, they biodegrade much faster and have less of an overall negative effect on the environment. Bags for life will cost slightly more than a 5p single use bag, however these can be returned to the store once they wear out and swapped for another bag.

When will I be charged? Not only are paper bags exempt from the charge, but there are a few other types of bags that won’t cost you 5p. Shops at airports and on-board trains, aeroplanes and ships are not required to charge 5p for a bag. In addition, bags that contain unwrapped food, raw meat and fish, seeds, bulbs and flowers are exempt. As are plastic bags containing prescription medicines, uncovered blades and live fish.

Where will your money go? Good question! 0.83p for every 5p will go to the treasury as VAT, so the government does stand to make some money from the charge. The untaxed portion of the plastic bag charge is required to go to charity, if the bag is a single use bag under 0.07mm thick. However, the charity being donated to is up to the retailer, so it might be worth researching what charities retailers will be passing the charge money onto. For example, Boots and Poundland are supporting Macmillian Cancer support, Marks and Spencer already donates its plastic bag charges to the World Wildlife Fund and the Marine Conservation Society and Waitrose, Iceland and Morrisons are donating to a Dementia Research Institute.

So, remember to bring your plastic bags with you if you want to avoid a charge, or if you do forget, it’s better to buy a bag for life and to keep reusing it than to continually buy single use bags. 


Emily Smith-Marketing Team-