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5p plastic bag charge to be extended to tackle 'throwaway culture'

Picture by PA
Picture by PA

The 5p charge on carrier bags is set to be extended under plans to tackle the "throwaway culture" in a 25-year Environment Plan being published later this week.

Corner shops and other retailers with fewer than 250 employees are currently exempted from the charge in England, but Theresa May and Michael Gove will set out plans for the levy to cover almost all plastic bags.

Prime Minister Mrs May said she wanted her Government to take a stand against the "profligate" use of natural resources as she briefed her Cabinet about the plan.

And Environment Secretary Mr Gove showed he was ready to practise what he preached, by turning up for the meeting clutching a reusable coffee mug.

The plan will be unveiled on Thursday and Whitehall sources confirmed that a consultation on extending the plastic bag charge will form part of it.

One option on the table would be for the charge to be extended on a voluntary basis, the source said.

At the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Mr Gove told colleagues that the introduction of the 5p charge on single-use plastic bags had contributed to a reduction of nearly 90% in their use, in a clear demonstration of what can be achieved by targeted official action.

He said the Government was "determined to tackle the throwaway culture which plastics encapsulate" and its plan would set out details of how to reduce demand for them.

Mrs May told Cabinet that the Government had "a clear belief in conserving what is good and standing up against the profligate use of resources, whether that is public money or natural resources", said her official spokesman.

The 25-year plan would "send a strong message to the public about the Government's commitment to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it inherited".

Mrs May unveiled plans last weekend to plant 50 million trees in a "Northern Forest" stretching along the M62 corridor between Liverpool and Hull over the coming 25 years, to boost habitat for wildlife including birds and bats, protect species such as the red squirrel and provide more access to woodlands for millions of people living in the area.