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The England Bag Tax: 6 Months On

Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 3:30 PM

The England Bag Tax: 6 Months On
More than 6 months ago, at Bags of Ideas we looked at the newly-instated Carrier bag tax in England in our blog: The 5p Plastic Bag Charge & How Your Business Can Benefit. At the time of writing the English bag tax was in its infancy – but now, half a year down the line, we thought we would take a look at how the tax is working, and if there really are opportunities to take advantage of in terms of your promotional marketing strategy. In 2014, British supermarkets alone gave 8.5 billion plastic throwaway carrier bags to their customers. It’s figures like this that led to the bag tax, in order to reduce this unnecessary consumption, and the burying of all that plastic in landfill sites. How long it takes plastic bags to degrade is debatable, mainly due to the fact that they’ve only been around for about 50 years; however, scientists are divided on timescales, with estimates ranging from 25 years to 500 years. Considering all of this, the obvious fact is that none of it is necessary anyway. Bags can be recycled easily. Some UK councils even collect them straight from the doorstep. If plastic bags were widely recycled, it would reduce the damage caused to the environment – including a build-up of indestructible plastic waste in rivers and seas, and reduce the usage of oil, the finite fossil fuel from which almost all plastic bags are made. Sadly, worldwide, it is estimated that only around 5% of these bags are recycled.

Scary statistics like this led to the bag tax, in a bid to reduce unnecessary consumption and waste.

Actually, England was very much a latecomer to the party; Wales and Scotland had both already adopted a version of the bag tax along with many other countries around the world, and to great effect; with a fourfold increase in the sales of so-called “Bags for Life” and an estimated 80% reduction in the use of disposable plastic carrier bags, it was an obvious step to take.


So has the Bag Tax been a success? Well in short, yes! It’s done exactly what was intended, and that’s to reduce the number of plastic bags consumers are using, and move them over to more eco-friendly solutions, such as Cotton and Canvas or Non-woven Bags for Life.

Tesco claim that the number of bags they dish out has dropped by around 78% since the introduction of the tax, and, the sale of reusable bags had soared.

“What does this mean for us promotional marketers” you say. Well, it’s time to start reacting to the demand, because there is a huge opportunity to get even more out of an already massively beneficial advertising tool.

With consumers being forced to “pay-or-change”, the visibility of your promotional bag can grow exponentially. What may have left the house once a month – if they remembered to pack it – will now be an essential item for any trip to the supermarket, where it will be in-sight to potentially hundreds of people per trip.

So, whether your business is in retail or not, every consumer now needs a good Bag for Life in the UK, and not just one. This means that the next event you do, if you offer a bag as a give away, there should be some careful consideration as to which one you choose; not only should it meet your requirements on the day of your event, but it should also be an ideal bag for that individual to do their shopping with the day after.

Now consumers must pay for their carriers, there’s even more resilience to that bag having a logo plastered all over it. To put simply, why should the customer pay to advertise the shops brand? This adds even more value to a promotional shopping bag than ever before, as customers are usually happy to advertise something they have received for free.

Now isn’t the time to scrimp on a below-par promo bag, as the chances are it will simply go in the bin. As a marketer, you should be considering the best offering within your budget. A solid cotton or canvas bag, or a robust jute bag, with solid handles, that can take the heaviest of shopping loads when your target market does the weekly “big shop”. It’s also an added bonus if the bag please’s the fashion conscious because they could be using it on a daily basis!

shopper bags
Think practically; a bag with a gusset, such as the market shopper will be more beneficial to a consumer than a bag without, as it will offer more space for those bulky shopping items. A bag with a short handle will be better too for a shopping trip than a shoulder bag, something like the Funo Shopper Bag would be ideal! As a promotional marketing tool, there’s never been a better time to look at bags. The demand for them across the UK and Europe has never been bigger. The cost per impression can only get more attractive; this year we have a tax on plastic bags – next year there is talk of a total ban, thus demand for reusable bags can only increase. And if you get it right, not only will you be offering a practical product to your consumers, also you will project a solid company image, high lighting a green approach to marketing.
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