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Today (1 October) marks the five year anniversary of the introduction of the Welsh Government’s ground-breaking Single Use Carrier Bag charge.

First published:
1 October 2016
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

On 1 October 2011 Wales became the first country in the United Kingdom to introduce a minimum charge of 5p on all single use carrier bags. In the intervening five years the policy has resulted in a  significant reduction in the use of these types of bags and an increase in support among consumers for the charge. Following this success, other countries across the UK have adopted similar policies.

A recent study published by Cardiff University revealed:

  • of 1,143 shoppers observed leaving four supermarkets in Cardiff only 14% were seen to be carrying out their shopping in just single use bags (compared to 57% using bags for life)
  • only a small percentage of shoppers surveyed in Wales said they now “often/ always” buy single use carriers when doing their main food shopping
  • support for the charge in Wales had increased from 75% to 80% over the period of the study.

The Welsh Government’s own review of the charge, published earlier this year also identified positive environmental benefits from the charge including: 

  • Two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed agreed with the statement ‘The charge has helped to reduce littering in my local authority area’.
  • Due to the significant shift in demand away from single use bag varieties to re- usable bag types (plastic or fabric), it is estimated that benefits of between £0.9 million and £1.3 million have been achieved for the period October 2011– January 2015.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said: 

“We were proud to become the first country in the UK to introduce a small charge for the single use of carrier bags. We introduced the policy with the intention of reducing litter, improving the appearance of our communities and influencing consumer behaviour.  I think we can all agree it has been a resounding success.

“This is an area where, along with our recycling rates, Wales truly leads the way. In introducing the charge in 2011 we were the pioneers of a policy with multiple benefits which has now been welcomed across the UK. 

“We are now looking at how we can build on the success of the charge.  New powers in the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 will open the way for further developments to enable Wales to take the lead in recycling and re-use across Europe."  

Keep Wales Tidy has also welcomed the policy. Chief Executive Lesley Jones said: 

“I’m delighted that Wales is leading the way in this type of behaviour change- it’s critical that we change our ways to help improve the environment and communities that we live in. We can’t continue to live in a ‘throw-away’ society and so it’s crucial that everyone realises the negative impact that plastic and other litter has on our communities. With the right mix of education, enforcement, awareness raising and collaboration- we can all contribute to a safer, cleaner and healthier Wales for now and for the future.”