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CAF is one of Europe’s largest charitable foundations. We produce research on charities and charitable giving, develop policy ideas and work with people, companies and charities to help good causes thrive.

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Good causes to benefit more than £70m per year from plastic bag levy

5 October 2015

A mandatory 5p charge for plastic bags, which comes into force in England today (Monday), is set to generate more than £70 million per year for good causes.

Supermarkets across the country plan to put profits from the levy to good use by ensuring it benefits charities and good causes, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has found.

CAF has been supporting a number of retailers with their plans on how to donate the funds, offering advice, overseeing the funds into the charity sector and helping to set up impact focused grant programmes.

Government estimates suggest that introducing the charge in England will raise about £73 million per year for good causes. Shops with 250 or more employees will be required to charge 5p per single use bag. Reports suggest that a number of small shops will also introduce a fee for carrier bags.

The levy is being introduced with the aim of reducing the 61,000 tonnes of waste generated by discarded carriers each year. Government guidance suggests that retailers should use the money to benefit good causes.

A levy on plastic bags has been in operation in Wales since 2011, and has raised £22 million for good causes since its introduction. Charging for bags was also introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland last year.

Charitable plans by retailers include:

  • Morrisons is set to use the proceeds to support good causes, chiefly the Morrisons Foundation and their national charity partner Sue Ryder.  The Foundation launched in 2015 and is open to applications for grants from registered charities throughout England, Scotland and Wales.  The partnership with Sue Ryder has raised £3.5 million since February 2014 and is funding the expansion of the charity's end of life care and family support services across the UK.  http://www.morrisons-corporate.com/cr/our-carrier-bag-savings-in-the-uk/.
  • Marks & Spencer introduced a 5p charge for every standard foot carrier bag in 2008 to cut usage and raise money for good causes.  It has resulted in a 75% reduction in carrier bag use in M&S Food Halls.  From 5th October the money raised by the charge at M&S stores will go to hundreds of local charities and community causes chosen by M&S stores and a selection of national charities that M&S has worked with for many years.
  • Sainsbury’s will voluntarily give profits from the sale of a new, thicker reusable 5p bag to local charities and good causes.  This will generate substantial donations on top of the £52 million pounds they already raise for charity.  www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/blog/2015/08/2015/09/roger-burnley-plastic-bag-legislation/
  • In Scotland a number of charities and enterprises have received over £540,000 in donations from Asda’s Carrier Bag Community Awards Scheme whilst in Wales the figure stands at over £650,000.  Their aim is to do the same for good causes in England.

Jonathan Neale, Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying at Aldi, said:

"We are proud to have been amongst the first supermarkets in the UK to charge for carrier bags, championing responsible usage since opening our stores 25 years ago."

"In addition, we donate proceeds generated from the sale of single use carrier bags in England and Wales to the RSPB, which will go towards connecting more than half a million children with nature. This is part of a three year partnership, which will see the charity receive donations in excess of £2m."

Klara Kozlov, Head of Corporate Clients at the Charities Aid Foundation, said:

“It is great to see that retailers in England look set to follow the lead of supermarkets and big shops in Wales and Scotland by using this new levy to support a wide range of good causes from local community groups to big environmental charities.

“Evidence suggests that the introduction of a plastic bag charge in England will not only lead to a significant reduction in carrier bags being issued, but it will do a huge amount to help charities carry out their important work.  It can be a source of reassurance for shoppers that money they pay for carrier bags will be going to worthy causes, many of which will bring a direct benefit to them and their neighbourhoods.

“We have seen a huge appetite among retailers for ensuring that money raised by the levy gets spent in the most effective way and has the best possible impact. With upwards of £70 million expected to be raised for charities by the levy every year, this is likely to have a real and noticeable benefit for the causes shoppers care about.”


  1. CAF is offering support to retailers to distribute money to charity through setting up company accounts, which allow companies to give in an effective, hassle free way, and through grant-making programmes.  More information on CAF’s corporate accounts can be found here: https://www.cafonline.org/giving-as-a-company/corporate-responsibility
  2. Government’s impact assessment estimates that over the next 10 years the benefits of the scheme will include:
  • an expected overall benefit of over £780 million to the UK economy
  • up to £730 million raised for good causes
  • £60 million savings in litter clean-up costs
  • carbon savings of £13 million


£22 million raised in Wales since plastic bag levy introduced in 2011: http://gov.wales/docs/caecd/research/2015/150904-post-implementation-review-single-use-carrier-bag-charge-wales-emerging-findings-report-en.pdf
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