Large supermarkets raise almost £23m through carrier bag charge in England

The figure is the amount raised for good causes by the largest supermarkets following the introduction of a compulsory 5p charge on single-use plastic bags in England in October

Plastic bags
Plastic bags

Leading supermarkets have raised almost £23m for charities and good causes in the first six months of the plastic bag levy in England, a Third Sector study shows.

The highest amount has been raised by the UK’s biggest supermarket Tesco, which generated £11.2m through the levy in England between 5 October and 6 April, followed by Morrisons, the fourth largest supermarket by market share, which said it had generated £3.1m for charity through the levy.

Asda estimates it raised £2.1m from the levy in England, while Sainsbury’s, the second-largest supermarket, said it had raised £2m from the levy. Sainsbury’s said it no longer offered single-use plastic bags, but instead offered thicker and reusable 5p and 10p bags.

The Co-operative said it raised £3.1m and Waitrose raised almost £1.3m from the bag charges over the first six months.

All of the leading supermarkets and retailers were due to supply their first set of figures on the levy to the government by 31 May.

The total raised by Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury's, the Co-op and Waitrose comes to £22.7m.

Company How much raised Where is it going
Tesco £11.2m Numerous local charities
Co-op £3.1m Local causes
Morrisons £3.1m Sue Ryder and the Morrisons Foundation
Asda £2.1m UCL Dementia research Centre and a retail-led social investment fund from Oct 2016
Sainsbury's £2m 1,000 local good causes
Waitrose £1.2m UCL Dementia Research Centre
Aldi/Lidl Not disclosed RSPB (Aldi), Keep Britain Tidy and CLIC Sargent (Lidl)

Both Lidl and Aldi did not disclose how much had been raised by the English plastic bag levy to date. But Aldi said it hoped to raise £2m over three years.

The levy introduced by the government in October requires all retailers that employ at least 250 staff to charge 5p for single-use bags.

The government estimated that plastic bag usage could fall by as much 80 per cent as a result of the levy and it could raise up to £730m for good causes over the next decade. More than 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were handed out to customers by major supermarkets in England in 2014, according to the government.

The Dementia Research Centre at University College London looks set to be the biggest single beneficiary from the proceeds so far, with both Asda and Waitrose donating all of the funds they raised to the centre.

Tesco said it would distribute the money to local charities in grants of between £8,000 and £12,000 through its Bags of Help scheme.

Morrisons will split the proceeds between its charity partner Sue Ryder and the Morrisons Foundation, which provides grants to local charities. Sainsbury’s said the money would be donated to more than 1,000 good causes chosen by staff and customers. The Co-op said that it would distribute the proceeds to local causes in England.

Aldi has nominated the wildlife charity RSPB to receive its plastic bag charges, and Lidl will donate the money to Keep Britain Tidy and the children’s cancer charity Clic Sargent

Other retailers

Third Sector also asked some of the other leading retailers to supply details about how much they are due to donate from the scheme.

Poundland has raised almost £545,000 from the levy in England, which will go to its charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support and the UCL’s Dementia Research Centre.

John Lewis has raised £239,794 in England in the first six months of the scheme, which will go to a range of national and local charities including Barnardo’s, a spokesman for the retailer said.

Marks & Spencer said it raised £2.2m across the whole of the UK over the same period, with the proceeds going to charities including Breast Cancer Now, Unicef and the World Wildlife Fund.

Ciaran Price, policy officer at the Directory of Social Change, welcomed the amounts raised, but warned that the money received from the plastic bag levy should supplement, rather than replace, existing corporate social responsibility programmes.

"It’s critical that companies are up front and transparent in their annual reports and accounts about how this money has been collected, how it is being distributed, and the process by which successful charities are selected," he said.

"It’s good if there is more cash coming for charitable causes from companies – but we need to make sure there is transparency in the process and that it isn’t displacing charitable giving from the company itself."

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