The Plastic Bag Charge: Is it doom and gloom for small businesses?

posted on 01/10/2015 10:52:53 by James McAllister

From the 5th October, businesses in England who employ more than 250 staff are legally required to charge a minimum of 5p per single-use carrier bag. This change brings England in line with neighbouring Wales and Scotland, who are currently running similar carrier bag charges. However, unlike in other regions of Britain, only larger businesses will need to comply with the plastic bag charge in England.

Despite this change, the Government are still trying to encourage smaller businesses to volunteer for the scheme. However, many are hesitant to get involved due to the perceived negative impact that the 5p carrier bag charge could have on their business. 

What many small business owners may not realise is that there are in fact a number of positive impacts and benefits that the carrier bag charge could offer a business. To highlight this, Make It Cheaper conducted a survey which assessed consumer opinions and attitudes towards the plastic bag charge, if it was adopted by smaller businesses.

The main finding of the survey was that, in large, consumers were receptive of the 5p carrier bag charge, with 58% stating that it would have no impact on, or in some cases even improve, their perception of a small business. It is also entirely possible for a small business to turn the plastic bag charge into a marketing opportunity, with 62% of people stating they would be happy to take advantage of a reusable bag, even with a business’s branding printed on it.

The Government has also announced that the amount of “reasonable costs” that a business can claim in order to make themselves compliant with this new law, will be higher in the first year than in subsequent years. These reasonable charges include things such as the cost of training staff or changing till software to accommodate the 5p charge. Such costs can be deducted from any profits that are generated by the plastic bag charge, with the remainder being donated to a good cause. This means that small businesses adopting the scheme early will not have to bear the cost of becoming compliant with the law.

A more detail summary of the findings can be found in the useful infographic below.

This infographic was created by Make It Cheaper, a business broker specialising in energy and insurance products, such as shop insurance

James McAllister

James is an online content creator at Make It Cheaper. Having previously created a variety of content for a number of websites and media outlets, James focuses on making it easy for SME owners to find interesting and engaging content - as well as useful guides and online tools.You can email James at

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