Shoppers in England will need to pay a minimum of 5p for a plastic carrier bag from October this year.

carrier bag

The charge has already been in place in Wales since October 2011 and in Scotland since October last year.

The charge applies if you shop at a large retailer in England. A large retailer is classed as an organisation with 250 or more equivalent full time employees. This would include the big four supermarkets as well as Aldi, Lidl and Home Bargains.

Charges should apply regardless of in-store, collection and home delivery purchases.

Firms under this size are exempt but can still voluntarily charge 5p.

Plastic bag charge exemptions

Retailers should not however charge for the bags that are:

  • for uncooked fish products
  • for uncooked meat or poultry
  • for unwrapped food for animal or human consumption
  • for unwrapped loose seeds, flowers, bulbs, corns, rhizomes or goods contaminated by soil such as potatoes or plants
  • for unwrapped blades, including axes, knives, and knife and razor blades
  • for prescription medicine
  • for live aquatic creatures in water
  • woven plastic bags
  • for goods in transport, such as at an airport or on a train, plane or ship
  • considered as sealed packaging for mail order and click-and-collect orders (regardless of handles)
  • returnable multiple reuse bags (bags for life)
  • used to give away free promotional material
  • used for a service but there’s no sale of goods, such as dry cleaning or shoe repairs


The charges don’t apply to bags which are sealed – such as those used when delivering packages from online or mail-order suppliers.

If you’re looking at re-useable bags as an alternative you should remember that a worn out re-useable bag can be replaced free of charge if you return it to the shop where you bought it from.

How much will it cost each year if I keep on paying for plastic bags?

Let’s say you need five plastic bags each time you shop at the supermarket and you go at least twice a month. If you’re spending 50p a month on bags then it means in a year you’ll be spending six pounds a year just on plastic bags.

Our advice is to look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.