From October 5th businesses with over 250 full time equivalent employees in England will have to charge 5p for a disposable carrier bag unless it is used to carry a varied list of exempt products ( visit Gov.uk for full details)
Larger stores will have to ensure that the relatively complicated rules on when charging applies is passed down to individual checkout operators – and then make sure that the process is properly managed. Added complications include dealing with home deliveries, and how to control charging for bags at self-service checkouts.
Smaller businesses, who do not have to charge, may see some regular customers asking for bags on a more frequent basis so that they can stockpile them to use for free during their visits to the supermarket.
So what should small businesses do? If they carry on supplying free bags they might find that they will have to buy more bags to satisfy increased demand. If they charge will it put them at a disadvantage against the big boys?
The decision might be based on what actually happens in an individual business but, in reality, if customers accept paying for single-use bags at the supermarket will they quibble if they have to pay in smaller shops, particularity if the money raised is used to support recognised good causes.
Maybe it would be easier if a 5p charge just became the norm.
For some interesting comments and statistics on the use of plastic bags visit BBC news magazine