With UK consumers set to be hit with a 5p charge for carrier bags from Monday the 5th of October, new research from financial comparison website money.co.uk¹ reveals that for those who forgot to 'bring their own' could together be hit with a bill of almost £100 million² for carrier bags between now and Christmas alone.
The 5p charge might sound negligible but based on average carrier bag usage, shoppers could find themselves paying for 166 bags in one year, a total bill of £8.32³ each.
Awareness of the changes could be better with almost one in five (17%) of those surveyed set for a shock when they get to the checkout next week as they have no idea they will have to pay 5p for almost every bag they use.
Only 52% of those surveyed take shopping bags with them when they do the food shopping, while just over a third (36%) 'sometimes' take them. However, almost one in ten (9%) admit that they always forget to take carrier bags with them when they go to the supermarket.
When it comes to clothes shopping, 36% of consumers admit they always forget to take carrier bags with them so shoppers on the high street are most likely to end up paying the new charge.
Despite this change in legislation already being up and running in other parts of Great Britain, 28% of consumers do not think it's fair that retailers will no longer be providing free carrier bags. A further one in three (36%) do not think that 5p is a fair price to charge.
Bag facts: As with all new legislation it's not quite as straightforward as it sounds and could cause cashier carnage as staff are left to decide if a customer qualifies for a free bag or not. The government has issued guidelines defining what a plastic carrier bag is: it must be made of plastic, be unused, have handles and be 70 microns thick or less. Cashiers must then check if the items qualify for a free plastic bag. There is a long list of exemptions from the 5p charge including: uncooked fish, meat and poultry products, unwrapped blades, "live aquatic creatures in water", flowers, bulbs, potatoes and prescription drugs. However, if one non-exempt item is placed in the bag with an exempt item, cashiers must charge 5p.
The Government hopes the new charge will cut carrier bag usage in the same way it has in Wales where it has fallen by 71%⁴ since the ruling was implemented in 2011.
The majority of proceeds from carrier bag charges, which only apply to businesses with more than 250 employees, will be donated to charities. Already in Wales this donation has amounted to between £17 and £22 million⁴ in just four years.
Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of money.co.uk, comments:
"Saying farewell to free carrier bags may sound like a simple change for the good of the environment, but when you look beneath the surface the new ruling is a minefield for shoppers and checkout staff alike.
"The intricacies that dictate when shoppers should and shouldn't be charged for a bag are overly complicated, so I wouldn't rule out checkout chaos next Monday.
"The 5p charge is there as a deterrent, and it will add upwards of £8 to shopping bills over the course of a year, but this is really about cutting the number of plastic bags we use.
"I'm sure everyone will get used to the charges pretty quickly, but I just hope people remember to 'pack their bags' before they head to the shops"
Ministers have also been accused of a tax grab after it emerged VAT will apply to sales of bags. This means the Treasury will pocket almost 1p for each one sold and estimates show it stands to make around £19 million a year.
Notes to Editors: 1. A survey of 1,057 consumers was carried out by money.co.uk opinion panel from 22nd September - 29 September, 2015.
2. Wrap UK 2014 estimates the UK uses 8.5 billion carrier bags every year * 8.5 billion divided by the 16+ UK population (51,307,392) = 166 bags per person per year. * 166 / 52 = 3.2 bags per week * 3.2 x 12 weeks until Christmas = 38.2 bags per person x 0.05p per bag = £1.91 * 51,307,392 x £1.91 = £97,997,118
3. On average consumers use 166 carrier bags each per year * 166 x 0.05p = £8.30
4. Gov.wales report