Protecting the environment by extending the plastic bag charge

March 6, 2015 12:01 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced plans to remove all exemptions for single use bags in the next parliament through a new Nature Bill to reduce the levels of litter in our cities and countryside.

The exemptions could raise significant money for good causes and reduce the costs of cleaning up litter.


Under the plans, Liberal Democrats aim to take an extra 3.5 billion single-use plastic bags and 328 million paper bags out of circulation each year, in a bid to protect the environment for our future generations.

Over the course of 10 years, removing exemptions will also deliver overall net benefits for SMEs of £300m and overall net benefits to consumers of almost £100m.

Liberal Democrats in government are delivering a 5p plastic bag charge which is due to take effect in October and is expected to raise £730m for good causes and £60m savings a year in litter clean-up costs.

Restrictions on plastic bag charges were imposed by Conservatives in coalition, despite backing from NGOs, consumers and some business groups to remove all exemptions.

The Liberal Democrat Nature Bill also includes:

  • Ambitious proposals for two further tranches of Marine Conservations Zones in English seas by 2015-2016.

  • Creating a million square km 'Shackleton Marine Reserve' in the south Atlantic, dedicated to the famous British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, buried in the South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands that forms part of the reserve.

  • Publishing a 25-year 'Nature of Britain' plan with clear recommendations for reversing the decline of species and their habitats like bees and other insects which pollinate crops.

Commenting on the proposed Bill, Nick said:

"Whilst some people have gone suspiciously quiet on the need to tackle climate change, the Liberal Democrats have never pulled our punches to safeguard the environment. It is so important that we stop polluting our country and protect our natural spaces and wildlife. We cannot allow environmental issues to be ignored.

"The facts are simple; single use bags blight our towns and countryside, they trap and suffocate wildlife, and plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade.

"The countdown to charging has begun, and by the time it arrives this autumn, reusable bags should increasingly be commonplace. As we get used to it, the hundreds of millions raised from the charge will go to charities.

"But we need to do much more. We need to go further and faster. This is why the Liberal Democrats will remove all single use bag exemptions, benefitting consumers, charities, small businesses, and the millions of families who enjoy our wildlife and countryside."