Is the 5p carrier bag charge detrimental to retailers and for no good purpose?

Is the 5p charge worth it?

It’s been four months since the introduction of the 5 pence charge for a carrier bag, which has become somewhat tolerable after media frenzy on the issue. The law was introduced by the government on October 5, in order to reduce the use of carrier bags and help protect the environment. 


The controversial law applies only to businesses with 250 employees or more and is at the discretion of those businesses below the employee threshold.

The law is following suit to that which was introduced in Wales on 1 October 2011 and the government hope it will soon become custom in England. However, some consumers have not taken to the introduction so kindly expressing the charge as yet another tax and some claiming it is a ‘profitable tax ploy’.

Other than attempting to protect the environment, is there any other benefit to the consumer for paying is ‘bag tax’?  Well, many of us have been in a situation where our bags have split whilst carrying our shopping home:  the new introductions provide a form of protection since the new 5 pence charge now creates a sale of goods contract.

Previously a carrier bag was free and therefore if your bag split, shops were under no obligation to replace or compensate you for it. Now that there is a contract between you and the retailer, there is a legal obligation that the bags be fit for purpose. If the bags durability is not suitable, retailers could be compelled to compensate for the goods as consequential damages.

Does the purpose defeat the objective? The likelihood is retailers will strengthen their carrier bags which in turn could be more harmful to the environment. So is the 5p charge worth it?

Jermaine Malcolm