Mixed local reaction as supermarkets start enforcing 5p charge for plastic bags

Credit: Frida Meinking and Rhea Bhayani

Credit: Frida Meinking and Rhea Bhayani

This week saw the introduction of a landmark change in legislation in a bid to reduce waste in England. Retailers with more than 250 full-time equivalent employees now have to charge their customers a minimum of 5p for a plastic carrier bag or face fines.

Some predicted chaos at the tills, but has the reaction been as bad as anticipated?

In Lewisham, there were reports from some locals that people had been abandoning their shopping, rather than paying the extra 5p charge.

However when EastLondonLines asked residents in Lewisham what they thought of the recent change, most were positive, reasoning that the charge was “not a lot of money” and that it will mean “less plastic bags on the street”.

An Asda spokesperson explained that it has “pretty much been business as usual” since the new charge, with the supermarket preparing their customers for a while before the 5p introduction.

“We’ve had notes on the tills to make sure they remember that the legislation would be put in place this week.”

Hackney Council are encouraging small shops that are exempt from the legislation to also support the waste-reducing policy by only offering plastic bags to customers if they ask for one. 

Isle of Olive, a greek food shop on Ada street, is one of of 36 businesses in Hackney that have pledged to support the scheme.

Paulina Filippou, director at Isle of Olive, said: “We use recycled paper bags and biodegradable tubs for our olives.”

“We sell honey loose and we encourage our customers to bring their own jars or reuse the ones they get from us. So when we heard of the campaign it was only natural that we would support it,” she continued.

“In the area we are located, a lot of the customers seem to be sensitive towards the environment. They often bring their own bags and they will only ask for a plastic bag instead of a paper one if their shopping is quite heavy.”

Isle of Olive received re-useable cotton bags and posters from the council to help promote the campaign in their store.

“We have only been involved for a couple of days. For now customers seem to be quite receptive, they are happy to take the re-usable cotton bags. It will be interesting to see if they will keep using them as the time goes by.”

Plastic bag charge: The facts

The charge has been introduced to help reduce waste in England and stop unnecessary damage to the nature and wildlife. 

England is the last country in the UK to introduce the plastic bag charge, after Scotland in 2014, Northern Ireland in 2013 and Wales in 2011.

The proceeds from the 5p charge are expected to be donated by stores to charity, as they themselves can choose what to do with the money.

The 5p fee also applies to home delivery, with most stores now giving their customers the option to choose between ‘bagless’ delivery or pay 5p for each bag. 

The charge does not apply to shops on trains, ships, planes and at airport shops. 

The charge does not apply to paper bags. 

You will not be charged for a plastic bag if you’re buying the following: 

– Uncooked fish, meat or poultry
– Unwrapped blades
– Prescription medicine
– Unwrapped loose seeds, bulbs, corns, flowers, potatoes or plants
– Live aquatic animals in water 

Video credit: Frida Meinking and Rhea Bhayani

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