Starting today, shoppers in England are being charged at least 5p by supermarkets and other big retailers for every plastic carrier bag they use. All retailers with 250 or more employees now have to charge at least 5p per bag.
This new rule means that England is now in line with the rest of the United Kingdom. Plastic bag use has dropped considerably in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland since the charging was introduced.
In England, a few items of shopping will be exempt from the compulsory charges. Free bags will still be provided to carry uncooked meat, poultry and fish, some fresh produce like potatoes, ready-to-eat food like fish and chips and all prescription medicines.
Last year, over 7.6 billion plastic carrier bags were used by shoppers in England alone! Plastic bags take a long time to break down in the environment. They are easily blown by the wind and can travel great distances. If they end up in the sea, they can present a major hazard to lots of wildlife, including turtles.
It is hoped that introducing the 5p charge will mean that more people change their shopping habits and use re-usable shopping bags. It has certainly worked in the rest of the UK, with Wales seeing an almost 80% reduction in plastic bag use since its 5p charge was introduced in 2011.
You can find out lots more about the problem of plastic by downloading and reading the latest edition of Conservation Education.
Photo by Andrew