The Prime Minister’s plans to expand the 5p plastic bag charge to smaller retailers could raise millions of pounds for good causes, the Charities Aid Foundation has said.
As part of the government’s 25-year environment plan, announced today, Theresa May said the requirement to charge customers 5p for plastic bags, which currently applies to retailers with more than 250 employees, would be extended to smaller shops.
She also promised to issue a call for evidence on charges or taxes on single-use plastics.
Government guidance on the existing charge says that retailers are expected to give the proceeds of the charge to good causes after reasonable costs and VAT are deducted, but it is not a legal requirement.
A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was not known whether smaller retailers would be expected to give the money to good causes, but the government would be consulting on the plans in the coming months.
Government figures show that at least £66m was raised for good causes in the year to 6 April 2017.
In a statement, CAF said it had distributed more than £20m from retailers including Aldi, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op and Sainsbury’s since the charge was introduced in October 2015 and the charge had had a huge positive impact on a range of charities.
"The extension of the plastic bag levy is to be welcomed and will generate millions of pounds for good causes," the statement said.
Scotland and Wales have already imposed the charge on all shops, but no information is available on how much of the money so far raised there has come from smaller retailers.
Rhodri Davies, head of policy at CAF, said: "The extension of the plastic bag levy and the call for evidence to support a possible charge on single-use plastic containers is a positive move.
"Since 2015, behaviour change has been brought about and millions of pounds generated for good causes. As well as supporting the vital work of charities, these funds can be used to develop better recycling facilities and support organisations working in areas such as the environment, recycling and consumer advice, which help to change our communities for the better."