How to Beat England's 5p Shopping Bag Charge

By Gary Cutlack on at

England has joined Wales and Scotland in charging shoppers 5p a time for plastic bags from today, in a hope that it'll reduce the supply of a staggering 7.6bn carrier bags that are used each year to carry our stuff home.

The move isn't driven by supermarket profits, so don't embarrass yourself on the internet -- the money raised from the 5p fees goes to charitable causes. It is an environmental decision, because bags end up in the sea where baby dolphins -- unable to read the safety advice -- put them over their heads and suffocate. And they also clog up drains and landfill sites.

It is not a blanket ban, though, so maverick old you can still walk around town with a free carrier bag if you know how to beat the rules. Specifically, the new law requires businesses with more than 250 employees to start charging for bags, so if all your shopping consists of Pot Noodles and biscuits bought from the local newsagent at 10:59pm, the blue shopping bags of shame will continue to be free.

Plus free bags should still be supplied when buying raw meat, as we can't as a nation, really encourage the carrying of bacon home in coat pockets, or the Germans will laugh at us. Prescription medicine and unwrapped convenience food may also come with a free bag, so you should still be able to amass enough over the course of a year to use as free mini bin liners and dog poo receptacles, if you're plastic savvy.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart said: "Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have seen a dramatic fall in the number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets and we can expect a significant reduction in England, possibly by as much as 80% in supermarkets and 50% on the high street." [GOV]