Around one in three (33.1%) convenience store retailers in England now charge for single-use carrier bags despite being exempt from the law, according to an exclusive poll commissioned by C-Store.
Under legislation enforced last October, retailers with more than 250 employees have been required to charge 5p for single-use carrier bags, with all proceeds donated to local causes, but small stores are exempt from the legislation. In other parts of the UK the law applies to all retailers.
When Scottish, Welsh and Irish retailers are included, the survey of 300 retailers by HIM Research & Consulting found that 47% of UK c-stores charge customers for bags - 55% of independent retailers and 40% of symbol group members.
Arjan Mehr, owner of Londis Bracknell, Berkshire, said all stores should charge for bags to avoid confusion. “People have accepted we charge, and no one’s discussing the idea you have to have more than 250 employees. We charge 5p and 10p, and there’s been a 40% reduction in usage since.”
Nigel Dowdney, who introduced a charge five years ago at his two unaffiliated stores in Norfolk, urged retailers to start charging “as soon as possible”.
“We had five or six complaints at the beginning, but that was all. Usage dropped by 89% in the first year,” he said. “All the proceeds go to the community. Last year we bought computers for the local youth club. We’re helping the community, saving the environment and saving ourselves a lot of money at the same time.”
Raaj Chandarana, of Tara News (Premier), High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, has successfully introduced a voluntary charge. “We started off charging 5p and people were frustrated, even though it was going to Wycombe Homeless Connection,” he said. “Now we have a big collection tub from Wycombe Homeless Connection at the counter and a sign that says bags are an optional donation. People love it and empty all their change in, sometimes donating £1-plus.”
Good all round
“We introduced a 2p charge (cost price) about 18 months ago. We had a few complaints, but most people accepted it and the number of bags going out has halved.”
Kate Mills, Heath Stores, Horsmonden, Kent
“We are pleased that thousands of retailers have decided to implement a voluntary charge. We will continue to encourage government to implement the scheme universally.”
James Lowman, chief executive, Association of Convenience Stores
NEW LAW PROMPTS SURGE IN BAG THEFT
Retailers who charge for bags would be advised to keep them behind the counter, new figures would suggest. According to security firm MonitoredAlarms.co.uk, plastic and reusable carrier bags are now the fourth most frequently stolen item, driven by the 5p charge in larger stores.
“It’s got to the point that even plastic ‘bags for life’ are being fitted with anti-theft security tags,” said spokesman Jonathan Ratcliffe.
The most frequently shoplifted category in 2015 was alcohol, the survey of more than 100 supermarkets and c-stores found.