THE introduction of a mandatory 5p charge for plastic bags across thousands of North West stores today (October 5) has undoubtedly split opinion.

In a poll conducted by Quays News, 70 per cent of participants thought the small charge for supplying bags at the checkout was a good idea while 30 per cent were against the Government’s move.

Environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy has described the crackdown on the number of ‘single use’ carrier bags being distributed as ‘the biggest step forward against littering in 10 years’.

But pressure group Taxpayers Alliance believe the levy, first announced by Nick Clegg in 2013, will cost the average household £67 over the next decade.

One member of staff at a Tesco store in Greater Manchester told Quays News that some customers have been ‘verbally abusive’ towards staff before the charge has even been enforced.

She said: “We have had people complaining about the charge already and being very rude about it saying they are not paying.

“I personally think it’s ridiculous that people should be charged 5p for every bag but it’s out of our control unfortunately.

“We’ve been issuing free bags for life to customers in the hope that people reuse them but you can forget to bring them. It certainly seems that the vast majority are very reluctant to pay for them.”

Bags exempt from carrier bag charge
Exemptions: The occasions when you won’t be charged 5p for a carrier bag (Picture from the Departent for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs)

Store chains with at least 250 members of full-time staff are legally required to charge customers and expected to donate the money to good causes but a number of small retailers will voluntarily apply the charge.

One newsagents in Manchester told Quays News they will be introducing the small charge but believe it should be obligatory to avoid confusion.

Owner Margaret Simpson said: “We’ve decided we will start charging customers but all of the bags we supply are ones we have brought from home ourselves.

“I think if supermarkets have to legally charge then we all should so we don’t get asked about it all the time.

“It doesn’t make much sense for stores with just a huge workforce to bring it in as it has nothing to do with how many staff there are.”

Tesco and Booths 5p carrier bag notices
Small charge: Thousands of stores across the country are now required to charge customers 5p per plastic bag at the checkouts

A survey by The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) found that 8,000 corner shops, newsagents and village stores will introduce the charge although it is yet unclear how many stores across the North West will do so.

ACS chief executive James Lowman also believes there should be a universal carrier bag charge but urges retailers to introduce their own scheme where possible.

“Independent retailers in England support the introduction of a universal 5p single-use carrier bag charge,” he told Quays News in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the Government have chosen to exclude small businesses, creating confusion for both retailers and consumers.

“We would encourage convenience retailers to introduce their own voluntary carrier bag charging schemes in stores wherever it is practical to do so.”

The scheme has been implemented in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales with the latter donating £22 million to charity and handing out 71 per cent less plastic bags since its introduction in 2011.

Last year, 7.6 billion plastic bags were given out by major supermarkets in England – a number which has increased five years in a row, according to the Office for National Statistics.

No. of carrier bags supplied in England
Bags at home: The figures also revealed that there are around 40 plastic bags lying around the average home

But a pressure group campaigning for a low-tax society believe the charge will add around £1.1 billion to the cost of living for families in England over the next decade.

TaxPayers Alliance told Quays News in a statement that the charge is ‘a very ill-considered policy’ that ‘will fail to achieve its stated aims’.

Chief executive Jonathan Isaby added: “This is yet another example of a well-intentioned yet badly-thought out proposal which is being introduced without considering the full cost implications for consumers.

“Politicians rightly identify the cost of living as a huge concern to people, yet seem oblivious to the irony that their own actions are adding to the burden.”

Some supermarkets will also charge a flat 40p rate for using bags when shopping online unless customers opt for a ‘bagless’ delivery.

Last week, Tesco stores gave out free ‘bags for life’ and will ask shoppers where they would like the money raised from bag charges to go towards.

Communications officer Rebecca Shelley said they will help customers to ‘minimise the impact of the charge and impact on the environment’ and ‘make a real difference for our local communities’.

Retailers must keep a record of how many plastic bags they have given out and report this to the Government by the end of May every year.

Supermarkets can be fined up to £5,000 for not applying the charge appropriately.

The plastic bag charge comes into effect just four days after the controversial ban on smoking in cars with under 18s inside.

WATCH: A campaign video which explains how the 5p plastic bag charge will affect you


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