Charities to benefit from new carrier bag charge

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  • The rules apply to retailers that employ more than 250 staff
  • Exemptions include bags that are used for uncooked fish or meat, loose seeds, unwrapped blades or bulbs
  • The levy is expected to make carbon savings of around £13m over the next 10 years
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The mandatory new charge on plastic bags is expected to raise more than £70m a year for charities and good causes.

Supermarkets and stores with 250 or more employees are now required by law to charge 5p for every single-use carrier bag - and give the after-tax profit to worthy causes.

The government has estimated that the fee - which is aimed at reducing 61,000 tonnes of waste generated by discarded bags each year - will raise about £73 million per year in England alone.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has been supporting a number of retailers with their plans to donate the funds and has helped to set up grant programmes.

Morrisons has said it plans to primarily support its own foundation, which provides grants to registered charities across the country, and its national charity partner Sue Ryder.

Asda will roll out its Carrier Bag Community Awards Scheme in England. The initiative has already handed out £540,000 of donations in Scotland and £650,000 in Wales.

Sainsbury’s has ditched its single use plastic bags in favour of a new, thicker reusable 5p bag, meaning they will not legally have to donate anything to charity. But the supermarket giant has said it will voluntarily give the profit from the sales to local good causes.

Marks and Spencers - which introduced the charge in 2008 - plans to donate the money to hundreds of local charities and community causes chosen by individual stores as well as a selection of national charities.

Klara Kozlov, head of corporate clients at the foundation, said: “It is great to see that retailers in England look set to follow the lead of supermarkets and big shops in Wales and Scotland by using this new levy to support a wide range of good causes, from local community groups to big environmental charities.

“Evidence suggests that the introduction of a plastic bag charge in England will not only lead to a significant reduction in carrier bags being issued, but it will do a huge amount to help charities carry out their important work. It can be a source of reassurance for shoppers that money they pay for carrier bags will be going to worthy causes, many of which will bring a direct benefit to them and their neighbourhoods.

“We have seen a huge appetite among retailers for ensuring that money raised by the levy gets spent in the most effective way and has the best possible impact. With upwards of £70 million expected to be raised for charities by the levy every year, this is likely to have a real and noticeable benefit for the causes shoppers care about.”