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Plastic bag phase out

Under the central government Waste Minimisation Regulations passed last year, as of 1 July this year, some plastic bags cannot be sold or given away in shops. 

Here’s what you need to know to be ready for the change.

The following bags will be included in the phase-out:

  • Made of any type of plastic less than 70 microns in thickness, please note, this does include plastics made from bio-based materials such as starch and plastics that are designed to be degradable, biodegradable or oxo-degradable 
  • Are provided simply for the purpose of distributing sold goods
  • Have carry handles
  • Are new or unused

The following bags are not included in the mandatory phase-out and will remain available:

  • Bags without handles including light-weight ‘barrier bags’ (e.g., bags without handles used for containing meat and/or produce)
  • Long-life multi-use shopping bags made from synthetic fabric between 45 and 70 microns in thickness. 
  • Bin liners
  • Bags for pet waste
  • Bags that form an integral part of a product’s packaging (e.g., sealed pouches with handles)
  • Bags made from bio-based materials that have not been converted to plastic (e.g., cotton, jute, hemp, paper, flax)

Biodegradable and compostable plastics are included in the phase-out as they can be as harmful to nature as their traditional plastic counterparts if they do not enter an environment that they are designed to break down in and most regions, including ours, don’t have suitable compost facilities. Some bags made of plant-based plastic can be home composted but they take a long time to break down.

Of course, the best answer both to protect our natural environment and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to get away from single-use plastic and get into the habit of using reusable bags whenever you can. So please embrace your sturdy, reusable bags, get into the habit of carrying one with you (those that fold into a small pouch are super handy) and be ready for the end of single-use plastic bags in July.

The Ministry for the Environment has also produced a useful kit to help businesses with the plastic bag phase-out.