Welsh retailers have been reminded that from next month they will have to charge for every plastic bag handed out.

From October 1, all retailers will have to charge 5p for every bag handed out. The money raised from the levy is to be donated to a charity of the retailer’s choice. Stores with 10 or more employees will be obliged to account for how the money raised has been used. 

For businesses found to be giving away bags for free there will be fines of up to £5,000. However, the government has allowed a three-month ‘bedding in’ period for businesses to get used to it.

The Welsh Assembly sent out a reminder information pack to 40,000 retailers and businesses last week and urged them to log onto its carrier bag website should they have a query.

Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses Welsh Policy Unit, Janet Jones, said retailers need to be made fully aware of the implications of the charge. “The Welsh government needs to make sure that the charge is advertised as widely as possible and that there is a soft touch with regard to enforcement,” she said. “It is important to allow small businesses to embed this in a suitable way.”

Head of environment at the British Retail Consortium, Bob Gordon, warned that the charge may irritate shoppers. “This will reduce the number of bags that are taken in Wales,” he said. “The challenge will be people will forget their bags and then they will have to pay for a bag and that will frustrate them. It will in the short term, maybe in the medium term, add some costs to shoppers.”