• 5p carrier bag charge to come into force in England on 5 October
  • New rules bring England in line with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales who already have the charge
  • Rules will only apply to large retailers who employ over 250 staff, and therefore the majority of community-owned shops will be exempt
  • It is hoped that the new rules will reduce plastic bag use by 80 per cent, with money raised going to good causes of the retailer’s choice (which will need to be reported to DEFRA and will be made available to the public)

In 2013 Plunkett sought the views of the then Plunkett Community Shops Network (now the Plunkett Community Enterprise Network) in order to respond to the government’s consultation on behalf of community-owned shops. Their response was that, as socially-driven organisations, environmental considerations are high on the agenda for community-owned shops. As an organisation representing the views of community-owned shops, we are therefore supportive of efforts to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags.

The majority of community-owned shops already provide recycled carrier bags given to them by customers. Many have also developed their own life-long bags that are sold in the shop. Therefore, the use of new carrier bags among community shops is minimal.

The Burrow volunteers with their hessian bag

In our consultation response we supported the proposals put forward by the Association of Convenience Stores to extend the 5p charge to small shops alongside major retailers, which would have enabled community shops to discourage the use of carrier bags and, at the same time, would have provided a level playing field for all retailers, removing the need for community shops to provide a rationale to customers if they did decide to charge. However, we did highlight the need to not impose additional reporting processes or administration on community shops, as they are so reliant on volunteers.

Whilst the new rules do not apply to community-owned shops as they are small retailers and employ fewer than 250 people, we would encourage all community shops currently using them to consider ways in which they can be reduced.

For more information please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/carrier-bag-charges-retailers-responsibilities

Key statistics from the community shop sector can be found in our Better Business report here. 

Pictured above are volunteers from the Burrow, Exbourne & Jacobstowe's community shop, with their hessian bags.