As of 1 October, shoppers in Wales will have to pay a minimum of 5p for every carrier bag they are given, in an effort to dramatically cut down on the excessive number of bags given out each year
The charge will also mean that retailers in Wales will be obliged to keep a record of the number of bags they issue and account for how proceeds from the carrier charge are used. However, concerns raised by some smaller businesses have spurred a re-think, meaning that retailers with a headcount of less than ten will be exempt from having to keep records.
The Welsh Government has always said it would review the record keeping requirements for small retailers. Following feedback from the Federation of Small Businesses and other organisations representing the business sector, the Environment Minister has decided that retailers with a headcount of less than 10 would have limited administrative resource and therefore should be exempt from record keeping around the charge.
Speaking about his decision, the Environment Minister said: "Last year in Wales we took home on average 273 carrier bags per household from the major supermarkets alone, and this figure does not even account for the number of bags we pick up when shopping on the high street or at smaller stores.
"Most of these bags are completely unnecessary. They end up cluttering up our cupboards, littering our country or sitting in landfill sites where they take between 500 and 1000 years to degrade.
"The carrier bag charge is all about helping us to cut down on the number of carrier bags we use. It is a policy that has been welcomed by people across Wales and really is good news for our country.
"I have listened to the views of the Federation of Small Businesses and other representatives of the business sector, and am pleased to announce that whilst all retailers will have to charge for bags from 1 October, those with a headcount of less than 10 will be exempt from having to keep records around carrier bag use."
The level of the carrier bag charge has been set at 5p because the Welsh Government believes this is high enough to encourage people to change their shopping habits but not so high that it will deter impulse shopping or place a significant burden on shoppers who have forgotten their reusable bags.
Northern Ireland's Bag Levy Moves Forward
Plans to introduce a charge on single-use carrier bags in Northern Ireland in April 2013 have taken a step forward with the launch of a public consultation on the proposals.
The proposed levy aims to reduce the 200m single-use carrier bags used in Northern Ireland last year. It is also intended to raise revenue, which the Northern Ireland department of environment says will be used to fund the environment and other government priorities.
Outlining the rationale behind the plans for the charge, Mr Attwood said: "Alex Attwood said: "I am determined that we treat the environment as what it is: one of our most valuable assets. Over 200 million carrier bags are used in Northern Ireland each year.
"The aim of this charge is to both reduce bag usage and at the same time raise revenue that would be used to provide funding for the environment and other Government priorities.This is a green initiative. It can symbolise a change of attitude, a change in culture, a change for the better.
"Throw away bags are an eyesore and result in hidden costs which each and every one of us pays. Not only do we pay for the costs of producing them in our shopping bills, but we pay for their impact on the environment and the costs of cleaning them up," he added.
The detailed framework for implementing a levy will be determined by legislation that is expected to be taken through the Northern Irish Assembly next year.