A card company in England is finding new ways to skirt environmental regulations. Instead of charging customers the 5-pence charge for each plastic bag they use — a fee intended to curb plastic bag usage and the garbage it creates — they are cutting the handles off all plastic bags.
Their modification to the new law, passed in October 2015, is not considered a violation and the company will continue to go about their business. A spokesperson for the company said, “The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed that not charging for bags without handles complies with the regulations as they stand.”
For those not familiar with the plastic bag penalty, countries all over Europe and in many cities in the US have adopted a practice to charge for plastic bags when making purchases in supermarkets. The UK’s 5-pence fee is provided to charities, and meant to drive consumers to think about their impact on the environment and hopefully push them towards using reusable bags.
When a company neglects the law or finds loopholes, there are unintended losers. Charities lose out on donations, and the environment and future generations reap the negative impact of continued toting of plastic bags.
Neighboring countries of England — like Wales — adopted this bag tax in 2011 and have seen a reduction in single plastic bag use by 71%. Given these results, researchers estimate that England can expect to use 5.4 billion fewer bags annually, a significant decrease from the 7.6 billion plastic bags used in 2014.
While all of this sounds promising, new research from VoucherCodesPro.co.uk reveals that since the passing of the law late last year, half of English shoppers admit to having taken a plastic bag without paying. The study suggests that an estimated £26.7m worth of carrier bags have been stolen.