Plastic bag charge to protect marine environment

Thousands of precious sea creatures, from seals and indigenous seabirds, to endangered sea turtles, will be protected with the introduction of the 5p charge for single use plastic carrier bags, Environment Minister Rory Stewart said today (Thursday, 01 October) during a visit to the Sea Life London Aquarium.

The charge, which comes into effect on October 5 for all retailers with 250 or more full-time employees, is expected to reduce the number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets by up to 80% and will bring down the number of bags that find their way to our coastline – one study found more than 4,000 plastic bags on our beaches in one weekend alone.

After speaking to conservation experts at the Sea Life London Aquarium today, Environment Minister Rory Stewart said:.

“Plastic bags are a blight on our environment and pose a real threat to marine animals who mistake them for food.

“Encouraging people to take fewer plastic bags from supermarkets is a small but important step in reducing plastic waste to protect our precious marine wildlife.”

Around 8 million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, posing a serious threat to our natural and marine environment – experts estimate that plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds.

Andy Bool, Head of the Sea Life Trust, a global marine conservation charity, said:

“Carrier bags and other plastic waste are a ubiquitous problem in the marine environment – not only do they spoil our beaches but they harm wildlife too.”

“Having very recently organised a beach clean, which removed 47 plastic bags from a 200 metre stretch of one Dorset beach, and having seen the deadly impact of plastic pollution on sea creatures like seals and turtles, I am delighted that a carrier bag charge is finally being brought in England. I hope it proves as effective at reducing their usage as it has in other areas of the UK.”

The 5p plastic bag charge follows the success of similar schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is designed to reduce the 8.5 billion single-use carrier bags taken from major supermarkets in 2014.

It is expected that the money will go to good causes, with £730 million to be raised in the next 10 years.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart added:

“Simple changes to our shopping routines, such as taking our own bags with us or using more bags for life, will have a huge impact on our natural and marine environment and will help clean up our high streets. But if people do need to take a new plastic bag from a shop they should feel confident that their money is going to a good cause.

“This new initiative will be of huge benefit to our environment and to our society.”

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