Mandatory charge for single-use carrier bags in England delayed until May 21st

UPDATE April 28th

The Government has told us that due to the current restrictions on its communications as a result of the pre-election period  — and to give businesses more time to prepare — a decision has been taken to delay the entry into force date for carrier bag charges in England to Friday 21st May 2021.

A major media campaign is planned following the May 7th elections to ensure all businesses are aware of the changes and ensure the public are also prepared for the change.

“The current legislation sets a minimum standard, so if businesses have everything in order to start charging 10p from Friday there is no need to change these plans from a legal perspective,” a spokesperson said.

When the legislation is introduced in England (in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, retailers of all sizes already make a 5p charge for plastic bags) it will be important for traders to know the new rules:

To be identified as a single-use chargeable carrier bag it must be:

• 70 microns or less

• must be unused

• must be plastic

• must have handles

After an enquiry from an NMTF member, DEFRA has confirmed to us that traders  must charge for biodegradable and compostable bags.

So far so good, but additionally there are a number of exemptions depending on the bag’s purpose.

It will not be chargeable if it is used for:

• Uncooked fish and fish products
• Uncooked meat, poultry and their products
• Unwrapped food for animal or human consumption eg chips, or food sold in containers not secure enough to prevent leakage during normal handling
• Unwrapped loose seeds, flowers, bulbs, corms, potatoes and plants
• Unwrapped blades, including axes, knives, and razor blades
• Prescription medicines

Or if it is a:

• Woven plastic bag
• A bag for life
• Bag given away for promotional use.

Unlike large businesses there will be no legal requirement to keep records.
There are fixed term penalties up to £200 for not charging for bags appropriately.