Protest against bag tax
Apr 2012 30

It is six months since the Welsh Assembly introduced a 5p tax on each plastic bag given to customers in shops—and not everyone is happy with it. Plus, there are plans afoot to expand it to the whole of the UK. The TPA is organising a protest petition against the bag tax in central Cardiff on Saturday May 19th at 11.30am. Please let us know if you can come along and support us.

In the face of concerns from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and other retail business groups, the Welsh Assembly had to backtrack on part of its implementation, saying that shops with less than 10 members of staff would not have to keep records of the plastic bag charge. ‘The complexity, as well as the added time and cost, in administering this would add further pressure on small businesses,’ said the FSB’s Welsh representative. But their customers still have to pay the tax.

Bigger stores are also having to waste money and time recording the charges and accounting for how the proceeds of the bag tax are spent—the money collected can be donated to a charity of their choice. Businesses can be fined £5,000 if they do not comply with the levy.

Frequently, small businesses are paying the bag tax themselves rather than pass it on to their customers. Bob Rice, owner of Castle Welsh Crafts in the heart of Cardiff, a favourite destination for tourists from around the world, says it is ‘awkward’ and ‘an irritant’ when he has to ask customers to pay for their bags, especially after they may have spent £100 or more. So, he digs into his own pocket to pay it. ‘I don’t want tourists and visitors going away with any negative feeling about Wales,’ he says. ‘I know just how important packaging is in some cultures.’ His bags are biodegradable and made from recycled materials. Frequently, he says, his bags are ‘a little reminder of the country they visited which is totally different to a supermarket plastic bag.’

The problem for many retailers is that customers don’t always travel with shopping bags to hand. ‘Some members have reported specific problems,’ said Iestyn Davies of the FSB, ‘such as a noticeable decrease in impulse buying, which many retailers rely on as a key source of revenue.’ Why should shoppers be penalised for not carrying bags with them all the time—and how are they then supposed to carry their goods?

The environmental impact has also not been fully thought out as shoppers use heavier bags made out of non-recyclable materials, such as plastic coated fabric, to pick up their regular shopping. These bags will have a bigger environmental impact when they are consigned to landfill sites.

Unsurprisingly, six months after the tax was introduced, the use of plastic bags has plummeted in Wales by 90 per cent. People don’t like paying taxes! But this doesn’t give the full story of customer inconvenience, lost sales and costly extra bureaucracy. Champions of the bag tax—such as the Daily Mail—now want it introduced across the UK. A Europe-wide bag tax is also being considered by the EU.

Please let us know if you can come along and support us on our day of action against the bag tax in central Cardiff on Saturday May 19th at 11.30am (exact location details to come).

Tim is Grassroots Coordinator for Bath and the South-West. He is an historian, author and veteran local campaigner.

  • SadButMadLad

    A lot of supermarket plastic bags were reused in the home for things like waste bin liners, or collecting cat litter. Many different uses. These uses still require plastic bags. So where do people get them. They go and buy black pastic bags. Supermarkets bags might have plummeted in number, but there will be a corresponding rise in other plastic bags somewhere.

    So as always with any central authoratarian planning it’ll all go to pot. You can’t plan for everything and the law of unintended consequences will kick in.

  • Carrie

    I wonder how many more rolls of plastic sacks have been bought though?

    Supermarket plastic bags are the only truly recyclable bags going, they get re-used all the time for hundreds of things, as bin bags, dog poo bags, storage bags, to put food waste in for the big bins, for giving to friends and family when they are leaving to take goodies back, as nappy sacks…the list is endless!; the thinking on this is truly pathetic!

  • alun-a-dale

    The idea of introducing a charge for plastic bags was to reduce the use of plastic bags.   
    ‘six months after the tax was introduced, the use of plastic bags has plummeted in Wales by 90 per cent’

    Job done!

    • Coronobog

      and bags accounted for 0.4% of household waste, so well done on scratching the surface you mug.

  • Hixak

    I think you are picking the wrong fight, with all due respect! Whether the charge is right or wrong, it will be hard to fight it at this stage…

    • Coronobog

      so we just give up?

  • Neil

    How can you possibly say that the convenience of shoppers is more important than preventing the uneccessary death of countless marine animals ? Whilst I agree with your views on many things I certainly don’t agree with this! Single use plastic bags are a symbol of what’s wrong with this society. What they’ve done in Wales should be commended!!!

    • Coronobog

      how many fish and animales are killed by oil leaks, fertilizers and other man activity? Do you suggest we stop using all oil?

    • Ha Ha

      Im going to buy lots of bin liners and chuck them in the sea in protest

  • Helen

    and whose taxes pay for them to be picked up as litter?

    it is NOT HARD to take a reusable bag – preferably not plastic – when going shopping. If retailers really want to give away clutter, at least make it paper.

    as for the bin liner thing; specious argument. Just generate less waste, it isn’t difficult if you buy less rubbish and buy less packaging.

    • Coronobog

      and what about all the other litter? Its not my fault idiots drop litter but I still get fined if I forget to take a bag with me and why should I always have to carry a bag with me anyway?

  • disgruntled shopper

    Retailers are making a fortune.  Before they gave them away free; now they don’t have to.  They just donate what they feel like to charity.  Don’t tell me they are accounting for every 5p bag – that would be just too much accounting.   Anyway, I always used my bags as bin liners.  When I use up the stock I have I will just have to buy bin liners or carrier bags and where will they end up – in landfill.  It’s the retailers who are gaining.  It is not possible to always separate items, e.g. clothes purchases going in the same bag as food.  I heard of someone who had a bottle of bleach in their bag who ruined a pair of trousers when it leaked.  The shop would not accept responsibility.  Just restrict bags to max 3 per shopper – that would save enough.  Publish the name of charities who are benefitting also.

  • Coronobog

    Does a charity cease being a charity when the public are forced into paying money to the charity, it is not a donation when it is compulsery. These bags accounted for 0.4% of household waste and were often used more than once. Please bare in mind that you are expected to recycle and still pay this unfair tax.
    0.4% of household waste and

    • Denise

      This is rubbish! When I get doled up to go out I don’t want to worry about taking a bag with me just in case! The idea of going out to buy, is not always for the item, it is having it wrapped up and delivered in a nice bag & handed to you. Not to put a lovely item in a reusable bag…get it MR Welsh Assembly…had to be a man making up these ridiculous rules. These shops have always paid for bags, why don’t you tax them.

    • Denise

      This is not very charitable forcing people to donate…how can it be a charity…anyway too many charities out there…they are all getting on the band wagon!