There was some bad and some good environmental news in the Queen’s Speech to the UK parliament this week (setting out government legislation for the coming year). As we’re in an optimistic mood today here at Roots & Shoots let’s focus on the good news in today’s blog – a mandatory 5p charge for plastic bags handed out by supermarkets and large shops in England.
The 5p charge comes hot(ish) on the heels of similar legislation in Scotland (which will bring in a charge on almost all single use plastic bags in October 2014), both of whom are lagging behind Northern Ireland (2013) and Wales which introduced a charge in 2011 that resulted in a 76% drop in the number of bags handed out.
At the moment a nigh-on unbelievable 19 million single use plastic bags are handed out in England every day. The majority of these are not biodegradable and often become a danger to wildlife, particularly marine creatures. Tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals and turtles are killed every year from plastic bag litter, often because these animals mistake the bags for jellyfish which are a staple of their diet. There are some disturbing pictures here and here of the effect this can have on animals.
In common with a number of other groups such as the Green Party and Surfers Against Sewage, we aren’t convinced that the English legislation goes far enough and that like in Wales it should be extended to all retailers, not just the larger ones, plus it won’t be law until at least autumn 2015. So, in the meantime we would like to encourage everyone to Break the Bag Habit today – start carrying reusable bags with you whenever you go shopping, take the online pledge and share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to encourage your friends to follow suit!