Should England roll out a carrier bag charge?

Plastic Bag

If you live in or have visited Wales in the past 12 months, you’re guaranteed to have been subject to the country’s carrier bag charge at the till. For those not aware, the scheme demands retailers of all sizes charge customers at least 5p for a single-use disposable bag to place their purchases in. With the initiative designed to minimise the environmental impact of carrier bags, there is now a debate whether similar regulations ought to be introduced across England (although certain retailers, such as WH Smith, currently choose to charge for carrier bags in their stores).

In the 12 months after it came into effect, supermarkets in Wales have reported falls of up to 96 per cent in the amount of single-use carrier bags used. The charge also generated some £800,000 for various environmental projects and charities, so it’s certainly helped to negate the ecological impact of plastic bags on the world around us. Introducing the scheme in England could also substantially reduce the amount of litter that blights our high streets, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, can only be a good thing.

However, there are reasons why introducing such a charge might not necessarily be a good idea. Many consumers are under significant financial pressure, so the prospect of being subjected to additional charges each time they go shopping and want a carrier bag is unlikely to go down very well.

Some customers will not be very pleased about having to shell out money on something they previously got for free on each shopping trip, which is why all retailers should stock a range of reusable shopping bags.

Commonly referred to as ‘bags for life’, these are a popular product already sold by major supermarkets. If you decide to offer a range of ‘bags for life’, advertise them on the basis that they are much stronger than standard plastic carriers. Plus they can be reused time and time again at no extra cost.

You can also offer ‘bags for life’ to highlight your green credentials as they show a willingness to reduce both your company’s and customers’ carbon footprint. What’s more, they can also help to promote your brand to passersby on the street. Make sure your bags feature your logo and other marketing information prominently and you’ll find awareness of your company not only rises among your shoppers, but also among everyone they pass on the street while carrying your bags.

Of course, it’s not for me to say whether or not England ought to go ahead with introducing a charge for carrier bags – David Cameron certainly won’t be ringing me up for advice on the matter – but I do think it’s important that you’re prepared for any changes that may happen and can take advantage of any promotional opportunities that present themselves.

Does your company operate any retail stores in Wales? What impact has the carrier bag charge in Wales had on your business? Leave a comment and let us know all about it!

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