Should charges go beyond plastic bags?

Plastic bags

Should charges that have been placed on plastic bags also extend to other products?  The plastic bag charges across the UK have had a dramatic effect on the consumption of bags and their impact on the environment. Although 5p is a minimal charge it clearly has an impact. When things are free we over consume, continuing to take more even if the marginal benefit is zero. The introduction of 5p has clearly made people think about whether they need a bag and look for alternatives. Consumers understand that there are environmental and social costs associated with the product. So is it time that we started applying charges to other forms of single use plastic?

Whilst there are some people (including the manufacturers) who are not in favour, 66% of people surveyed actually supported the introduction of the charge in England last year. They supported it because it was a minimal charge and they associated it with environmental and social good.

A study at Cardiff University looked at the behavioural changes of the plastic bag charge in England and also looked at what consumers thought about the introduction of similar environmental policies on other plastic products.

The report conducted over the period when the plastic bag charge was introduced, found that support for a 5p charge on water bottles increased over the period of the study and that support for a 5p charge on products with excess packaging also increased. One significant conclusion related to ‘policy spillover’. ‘Not only did people become more supportive of a plastic bag charge after they experienced it, they also became more supportive of other charges to reduce waste’

I believe that the time is now to make a positive change. Add a cost to the product, shift the environmental and social cost and the consumers will do the rest. We just need a little bit of political will power to put it in place.