SMEs avoid plastic bag charge legislation…for now » SMEInsider

SMEs avoid plastic bag charge legislation…for now

On October 5th all businesses that hire over 250 people will be obligated to sell plastic carrier bags for a minimum of 5p as the government looks to cut down on the 8.5 billion bags used in Britain last year. SMEs are exempt from the rule change, but can voluntarily take up the practice if they choose to.

SMEs can sign up to the scheme

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has only enforced the rules upon large businesses but has encouraged small and medium sized firms to voluntarily take up the practice if they choose to.

The rules are extremely convoluted, as businesses will only have to charge customers 5p if they buy certain items.

Retailers don’t have to charge for items that include:

  • Uncooked fish and fish products
  • Uncooked meat, poultry and their products
  • Unwrapped food for animal or human consumption – for example, chips, or food sold in containers not secure enough to prevent leakage during normal handling
  • Unwrapped loose seeds, flowers, bulbs, corns, rhizomes (roots, stems and shoots, such as ginger) or goods contaminated by soil (such as potatoes or plants)
  • Unwrapped blades, including axes, knives, and knife and razor blades
  • Prescription medicine

There is a hefty fine for business owners who don’t adhere to the government’s rules. Large firms will be fined £200 for failing to appropriately charge customers for plastic bags.

Businesses will also be fined £100 if they fail to keep or supply records of their carrier bag intake. The reporting year will run from October 5th 2015 – April 6th 2016. For more information on this subject, check out the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs detailed webpage outlining the new rules.

‘‘It’s great that the Government are addressing the issue of the waste produced in the UK, however I’m thankful that small and medium-sized businesses have not been passed this burden as this, I’m sure, would incur a variety of different costs and time taken up by small businesses,’’ stated Laura Fowler, chairman of the North East Lincolnshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

‘‘It’s not like small business have free time to waste counting 5p coins to pay the council with.’’

‘‘It seems to me an unnecessary charge to put on consumers. I understand that the proceeds could fund the production of better biodegradable bags and plastic waste separation.’’


Will the initiative work?

The government department is determined to cut down on the high amount of plastic carrier bags used in the UK. The amount of plastic carrier bags used in 2014 was 200 million higher than 2013, posing a significant threat to the environment and to the UK’s wildlife.

The scheme is already a staple of business life in some regions of the UK. The system has been operating in Wales since 2011 and the use of non-biodegradable bags has fallen by a remarkable 71 per cent since the programme was introduced.

In Scotland, the charge has been running since 2014, and plastic bag usage has fallen by 80 per cent.

‘‘Carrier bag numbers for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland indicate that a carrier bag charge can trigger significant reductions in carrier bag use,’’ said Alice Ellison, environment policy advisor for The British Retail Consortium.

‘‘However, the impending carrier bag charge for England is unnecessarily complicated and not consistent with the simple approach taken elsewhere in the UK.’’

‘‘Consequently, the charge will not deliver the same environmental impact as the rest of the UK.’’