Minister 'means business' on carrier bag levy for Wales

plastic bag The Welsh Government wants to cut down on the "excessive" number of bags which create litter

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Environment Minister John Griffiths says the Welsh government "means business" on the carrier bag levy.

He said shopkeepers who do not comply will be fined, although a lighter touch will be taken with enforcement in the first three months.

Shoppers in Wales will be charged at least 5p for single use bags from 1 October. It is the first UK nation to introduce the charge.

But there are claims confusion surrounds the levy.

The Federation of Small Businesses said said some shops were still baffled, but environmental groups said Wales was leading the way on reducing litter.

The Welsh government wants to cut down on the "excessive" number of bags.

All shops, from food stores to fashion retailers, will be required by law to introduce the levy, which it is hoped will encourage people to take their own bags shopping.

Mark Roberts, Co-operative Group: "We ask customers if they need a carrier bag, or actually want one"

The Welsh government wants to follow Ireland's example with a 90% reduction in carrier bag use.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "The introduction of our carrier bag charge demonstrates that Wales is a country that genuinely cares about protecting its environment.

"The Welsh public have always been very supportive of the introduction of this charge and I look forward to the dramatic reduction in unnecessary waste that it will bring."

Mr Griffiths told BBC Radio Wales: "We mean business from Day 1 because we expect people to remember their reusable bags right from the very beginning of the charge.

"There are civil penalties and they can run into hundreds of pounds and beyond, but it's not about fining retailers, it's about changing the way people behave and having less of a throwaway society.



  • Food items that are unwrapped - loose fruit and vegetables, bread, pick and mix sweets etc - or partly unwrapped, like takeaway chips.
  • Live aquatic creatures in water - fish, coral, crabs etc.
  • Unpackaged blades - axe, knife blade or razor blade.
  • Loose seeds and bulbs.
  • Packaged uncooked fish or meat.
  • Bags on board ships, trains, aircraft, coaches or buses.
  • For a full list click here

"We are quite clear that it will take some time for the change to bed in and that's why we've said that for the three months following 1 October, there will be a very light touch in terms of enforcement because everybody needs to get used to the new position."

Environmental groups, including Keep Wales Tidy and Waste Awareness Wales, have welcomed the charge, saying Wales is leading the way over the issue.

But the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Wales has raised concerns that some retailers are still unaware of the impending charges, despite the Welsh government sending out information packs.

It added that other shops had said they were confused about exemptions to the levy and how the fee would be enforced.

"There's a lot of confusion and I think it will take a long time for people to get used to the charge - both businesses and shoppers," said Non Rhys, Wales policy manager at FSB, which has around 10,000 members in Wales.

"Not all retail businesses will have had the packs from the Welsh government because there's not a list of all the retailers in Wales, so we have been trying to contact as many businesses as possible. But there will be some small businesses that do not know."

Biodegradable material


Some retailers and pharmacists say they are pretty foxed by some of the rules surrounding this new law.

Some of the big retailers I've spoken to, e.g John Lewis, are going to put the money from the levy towards Keep Wales Tidy, while Tesco are sending their money to the RSPB, so the big stores are already nailing their colours to a particular charity mast.

But when it comes to the smaller retailers, the whole question of policing and how you get that 5p into the good causes bin is going to be an intense one.

The Welsh government is really looking to the Irish example. Nine years ago Ireland started charging for bags and it says now the average person only uses 26 plastic bags, compared with 328 when the charges were first introduced, so it's a massive drop and the Welsh government is looking for the same kind of fall here.

Leighton Jenkins, from CBI Wales, said it was not the time to impose additional regulation on Welsh businesses.

"We're concerned that these changes will cause confusion at the tills as consumers and retail staff struggle to interpret these complex and far reaching regulations.

"Fast-food restaurants and clothes stores are at a higher risk of facing such consumer confusion due to false public perceptions that the levy only applies to supermarket plastic bags when in fact it applies to all types of bags in all types of shops.

"Retailers have already been forced previously to retrain staff and change processes based on draft official guidance, now they will have to do this again due to the Welsh Government's failure to issue the final guidance until 27 September, just four days before the levy starts."


The British Retail Consortium, which represents all retailers, said its members were ready but that the Welsh Government still needed to "iron out potentially confusing anomalies" over the levy.

"It needs to explain and address anomalies which mean that, for example, you can have a free bag with a carton of chips but not if it comes with a burger in a box," said Bob Gordon, head of environment.

"Or a DIY shop can give you a bag for 500 screws but not for five or six."

Steven Madeley, centre director for St David's shopping centre in Cardiff, said the biggest challenge was making consumers aware of the change.

He said: "It will undoubtedly be a surprise for some shoppers when they are at the tills from Saturday but we need to do everything we can to communicate the message as this will be a big change to shopping culture and to the mindset of consumers."

Firms could face penalties of up to £5,000 if they give away single use bags made from plastic, paper or biodegradable material for free.

Local authorities will have to enforce the levy, although the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), said it was unlikely to be "top of the list of priorities" for trading standards and environmental officers.

90% reduction

Businesses with over 10 staff will be obliged to keep a record of the number of bags issued and account for how the proceeds from the charge are used.

Firms are being encouraged to give any profits to charitable and environmental causes.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said it had been "proactively communicating" with businesses to raise awareness and had sent out two separate information packs in March and August.

"We want to see shoppers avoiding the charge wherever possible by re-using their own bags," he said.

"We expect to see a 90% reduction in bag use once the charge comes into force."

Ministers in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also considering measures to reduce the use of carrier bags.

Prime Minister David Cameron has warned supermarkets that unless stores deliver "significant" reductions of the use of single-use bags over the next 12 months, they could either be banned outright from giving them away or be legally required to charge customers for them.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    I have used the same 2 or 3 'large holdall' type sport bags to carry my shopping for well over a decade. As soon as they are emptied of my purchases at home; they go back into the boot of the car.

    Convenience - that is all these disposable bags are and there because some are to darned lazy to fatch your own from home - shame on you ***Tch! Tch! Tch! wagging finger with a 'NO!' nodding head!***

  • Comment number 209.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    England will never introduce a plan to reduce these bags because the hugely powerful supermarkets basically run the English government. They have been dictating policy to our politicians for decades. Our politicians are weak and pathetic - they are terrified of standing up to big business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    A little behind the times....

    The Assembly has agreed with Sainsbury's that there will be no charge on DELIVERED groceries, until next year.

    I emailed the Minister responsible over a year ago pointing out that this would be yet another example of 'pole tax' mentality i.e. additional expense per person without consideration of means to pay - I have not received the courtesy of a reply - go figure

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Ruddy Hell!

    My Asda order arrived ten minutes ago. The driver told me that he cannot give me any carrier bags to carry it all in because he is not allowed to. Shopping left in a pile on the verge. So now I have to lug it up the track in my arms. I shall now get the wheelbarrow out, that should make it a bit easier

    Thanks Carwen. This is a great help. Wizard work by your Welsh Assembly??

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    i think its about time a charge was introduced. people are so lazy and quick to grab a carrier bag for the sake of it and it creates unecessery litter.
    And for people who dont like the charge then its simple pay for a bag for life when you do your shopping itl last a very long time

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    @199. Rebecca Riot

    "Did you know that many Welsh men do not know what the inside of a supemarket looks like. I met a guy the other day who asked me what to do.I had to explain to him about trolleys & checkouts!!"

    ... and I thought the rural Irish were lost in a time warp! I hope to hell he was suffering from 'iechyd da' syndrome ... I'd hate to think any cognitively aware man could be so thick!

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    @201. Andrew Lindop.

    You will spend more money on petrol to travel over the border to shop in England than you would if you bought a few plastic bags at 5 pence each. I don't think you've thought this one through.

    Oh, and it's called the Welsh Government these days. We had a referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    Oh dear, what a state we are in that this is the story that has come to dominate the Welsh news pages. It's 5p a bag people, you will not die because of this, it will not change your life for the worse, and it might help a litte in a general environmental sense - get over yourselves already!

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    LOL - Welsh Assembly Government FAIL!
    Us bordertown boys will nip 3 miles into England and shop there instead. Its all win for the English councils on this one. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    195. Claire Rolfe

    The Daily Mail has led a campaign against single-use plastic bags, but it's the original 'nanny state' fingerpointing newspaper!

    You can get cloth folding bags that fit in a handbag or coat pocket. I don't agree with the state doing this because it's the Nanny State again, which was what Cameron accused Blair of overseeing, but we should all take responsibility for our habits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Claire Rolf

    Well said gal! Life is annoying enough in Wales already without having to remember a bag to carry your shopping. I bet Carwen never goes shopping, expects his wife to do it for him no doubt!

    Did you know that many Welsh men do not know what the inside of a supemarket looks like. I met a guy the other day who asked me what to do.I had to explain to him about trolleys & checkouts!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.


    How about not assuming what works for you will be suitable for everybody else.

    It was that sort of attitude that helped wipe out small town centre shops in the first place and force people to drive miles to supermarkets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Ireland have had the 'bag charge' for almost 10 years. The number of these bags has gone down. The sales of bin bags has gone up dramatically. A large proportion of 'single use' bags were used as cheap bin bags, dog poo bags etc. Now we may have to pay for them. More cost for us.
    Who will get the money from the sale of these bags? I expect my shopping bill to go down!

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    David Cameron railed over the rising use of plastic bags in the UK, saying the number of bags distributed by supermarkets is "unacceptable" and threatening to regulate if bag use does not fall.

    He said he's "very concerned about the use of single-use carrier bags"

    Nanny state!

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I hate this law, its disgusting and wrong, its fine for ppl who drive but for ppl who have to walk and use public transport its just not fair, if they charge then they should offer an alternative way to carry your shopping in, and its nonsense about carrying a bag with you, i never know when im gunna need a bag so why should i have to take some in my handbag or in my hand !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    It shouldn't be too hard for any retailer, no matter what size, to replace plastic with paper bags. I read on bbc/news that paper bags will also be charged.
    Its the inpulse sales that could suffer.
    pototoes carrots runner beans etc loose. you will get a free bag if you buy chips but if the bag has fish in a box you pay for the bag.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Now it's no carrier bags. Overfed and overpaid. A lot of self satisfied institutionalised fat chaps making our life in Wales even more awkward.

    That shed HQ in Cardiff Bay looks awful as well!!

    Education results down since the Assembly arrived, and due to the fat chaps withholding the money. Smaller budgets per pupil than England. Why is that and what have they spent on?? Big dinners?

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Just make sure that you get a collection of carriers to reuse and ALWAYS use one from a store different from the one you are shopping in - it is bad enough giving them free advertising, paying for the privilege is right out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    @188. Gotty

    In France, as a tourist with no bag, they will sell you a bag-for-life for about a euro, where's the problem with that?


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