How A Plastic Bag Charge Led To An 85% Drop In Their Use In England

How A Plastic Bag Charge Led To An 85% Drop In Their Use In England

It’s been almost one year since England introduced its new bag law, joining Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Now, the entire UK has laws in place to discourage the use of plastic bags from major retailers.

The law, which requires a 5p charge for plastic bags at retailers with 250 employees or more, led to a dramatic 85% decrease in the number of plastic bags used by the nation.

In England alone, there were 7.64 billion plastic bags handed out in supermarkets in 2013, which is an increase of over 1 billion from 2010.


Laws like this aren’t unheard of around the world. The UK joins several countries in using the law to reduce the number of plastic bags used, including Denmark, Italy, Germany, Belgium, China, France, India, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, 17 States of the USA (Including California and New York), and several countries across Africa.

These plastic bags aren’t always disposed of properly, and they’re ending up everywhere. IFL Science points out that about 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea each year, in large part due to plastic bags.

Plastic bags from the UK have been found as far north as the chilling Arctic Ocean. They find their way into urban streets and even blow into rural countrysides. No matter where you turn, the trash and plastic that isn’t being taken to landfills is polluting our environment.


Who Benefits From This Charge?

The obvious winners from this law are the supermarkets that the tax involves. While they aren’t seeing any major decrease in customers (in England or beyond) they are saving money and making money from the law. They now spend less money on the plastic bags themselves and they get to charge when the plastic bags they do buy get used. The supermarkets keep 100% of the money, although the government does expect them to donate some to a good cause.

In fact, charities will hopefully benefit from this themselves. The levy is expected to raise over 730 million GBP for charity in the next decade. In fact, M&S, UK’s fifth-largest supermarket retailer, enacted a bag levy of its own in 2007 and has raised 10 million GBP for charities itself.

The government is also benefitting from the new law. According to the BBC, the government expects to save some major cash from this law. This article points out that over the next decade, they expect to see savings in both reduced litter clean-up fees and carbon emission fees — almost 75 million GBP worth.


An overlooked winner of this situation is small businesses. Any business with under 250 employees doesn’t have to charge anything for their plastic bags, which may encourage people to shop at these small businesses more often.

And finally, the main benefactor of this new law is the Earth, and by extension, all of us. Litter is a form of pollution, and any pollution we can cut out is good news for the planet’s health as well as our own.

One community started seeing the positive environmental results of this levy almost immediately. A boater in Leicester, England said that he was used to pulling 60 to 100 bags out of the city’s rivers weekly. It all but stopped by January, 2016 — just 3 months after the levy was put in place. Now, he pulls a handful of unbranded bags a week.


What’s Been the Reaction?

The reaction in England has seemed to be overwhelmingly positive. In fact, Break the Bag Habit coalition — a group who’s dedicated to keeping rural England tidy — surveyed 2000 people. Over 60% of people surveyed agreed that the new law was “reasonable.”

Many organizations and individuals hope to see more. As it stands, the reduction of plastic bags will certainly help marine life and even some land animals, but it’s still just a “small-step”, according to Friends of the Earth chairman Craig Bennet. Hopefully this is just the first step of many in the right direction.

Featured photo credit: via


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9 Harsh But True Illustrations that Show Our Changed Society

9 Harsh But True Illustrations that Show Our Changed Society

Let’s face it.  We are living in a digital age, and there is absolutely no turning back. One of the biggest influences on society these days is social media. It affects us both positively and negatively. Social media was originally designed for people to share interesting facets of their lives with their friends, but it has become so much more than what it intended to be. It is now a medium for information to pass around the globe. In many cases, people first learn about current events through Twitter or Facebook before hearing about them from conventional news sources.

We also rely on technology for nearly everything we do. People these days seem as if they can’t go anywhere or do anything without their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. They need to be in constant contact with others via electronic devices.

However, there is also a downside to be too connected to social media and electronic devices. We are too dependent on them, which make us oblivious to what we are doing to ourselves. Being too connected can have a negative effect on our lives and the society as a whole. Here are 9 true illustrations that show how our society is negatively impacted because of the use of technology.

1. Facebook is eating away at your time.

Facebook is eating away your time

    How much time do you usually spend each day on Facebook or other social networking sites? Is it hindering your productivity? Do you find yourself wasting time to a point where you don’t even know where it goes? If the answer is yes, Facebook might have eaten away at your time.


    2. We’ve become “Likeaholics.”


      When you are posting something on Facebook, are you doing it just to see how many of your friends will give it the proverbial thumbs up? This illustration shows that some people are treating “Likes” on Facebook as if it was a drug they needed to inject into their bloodstreams.

      3. Our electronics have priority over our lives.


        Given a choice between your dying phone battery or you dying, which will you choose? In this case, the man in this illustration chose to charge his phone over to sustain his own life. As a society, we need to be more careful of our priorities.


        4. Families aren’t spending quality time together.

        mother baking

          Here is a mother making holiday cookies, but what are the kids doing? They are not making cookies with their mother. Instead, every one of them has their faces buried in their own electronic devices. Television used to be what parents use to babysit their kids. Now, it’s a tablet, phone, laptop or video game that does the job.

          5.  We’d rather record someone than help them.


            A lot is happening in this illustration. A black man is drowning and asking for help. One person has a gun pointed at him. The other person has their iPhone pointed at him and is recording the scene, but is not interested to help this man.


            6. Society is sleeping, it’s sleeping its life away.

            sleeping your life away

              Time is money. After we have wasted the long period of time on social media, we are losing the most valuable currency we have – our time in this world.

              7.  Despite all the technology we have, we still want what someone else has.

              wanting what someone else is having

                There’s an old saying that goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” This illustration shows that despite all that we have, we are still not satisfied with our lives.


                8. Sensationalism still sells.

                free expression

                  With the information overload that exists today, the media still looks for sensationalism. Here’s a woman who feels she has something important to say, but the media only cares about her because she is naked. Would the news media still have microphones in front of her if she wasn’t standing there topless?

                  9. In the end, with all of this, we are still killing the planet.

                  gun to mother earth

                    This last illustration argues that despite all of our technological gains, we are still polluting the earth as if we have a virtual gun pointed at Mother Nature. As we build bigger cities and higher technology, how much more damages can we continue to do before putting our lives at risk?


                    Featured photo credit: Jens Johnsson via

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