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Sumeet Randhawa

Corporate Client Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

PLASTIC BAG LEVY - THE STORY SO FAR 

CAF has been helping people and companies to do more for the causes they care about for over 90 years. One key focus for us is to support the retail sector in realising its commitment to support communities both here in the UK and abroad. 

We partner with major retailers to manage the funds generated by the plastic bag levy, and help them establish new community programmes or build on existing ones. Almost 18 months on from the levy being introduced, we are starting to see the positive impact in terms of fewer bags used and charities, both large and small, receiving funds.

Findings from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) showed that plastic bag usage has plummeted by six billion in the first year since the levy was introduced, which is great news. This indicates a clear shift in consumer behaviour as people are choosing to reuse plastic bags or opting for the ‘bags for life.’  The ‘bag for life’ has also helped some retailers build customer loyalty because they replace the bags once worn.

HOW WE'RE SUPPORTING OUR CLIENTS

Retailers have harnessed the levy in different ways but the key trend shows them using plastic bag levy funds to enable them to strengthen their community investment commitments and introduce new local programmes.  For example, Aldi is using the levy funds to support a national charity partner, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), while Marks and Spencer is taking a combined approach and electing to support both national and local charity partners. We have been able to advise on and facilitate these different programmes and there are many more great examples of how our clients are using the plastic levy to benefit charities and communities. One such example is Sainsbury’s with their ‘bag for life’.

We are proud to have partnered for many years with Sainsbury‘s to deliver their community programmes. As part of this, we have supported them with managing and donating their levy funds back into the communities in which they work and wish to make a difference.  Sainsbury’s replaced single use plastic bags with stronger, re-useable bags which are made from 100% recyclable material; these are not technically subject to the levy. Despite this, Sainsbury’s has opted to donate the profit from the sale of these new plastic bags to local charities nominated by individual stores

We are able to provide retailers with practical advice to support them in building sustainable programmes, connecting with charities, managing high volume vetting and disbursing funds securely, which helps manage potential risk. Furthermore, because we are able to evaluate and report on a programme’s impact, retailers can adjust and further develop their programmes to ensure they achieve the maximum impact possible. 

LONG TERM CHALLENGES 

The plastic bag levy does present some long-term challenges for charitable programmes. Its purpose is to reduce plastic bag usage and, ultimately, we all wish to see the use of plastic bags decline. This will ultimately result in potentially less levy funds being passed to charities.  Retailers will then need to find supplementary sources of funding for programmes currently supported by the plastic bag levy.

Many are starting to do this already and subsequent blogs will showcase some of the great work they’re doing in generating greater giving for their programmes from a range of funding sources.  As well as finding supplementary funds, retailers are striving to ensure that these programmes are embedded within their businesses and are central to their broader responsible business strategies.

GET IN TOUCH 

If you’d like to discuss how your plastic bag levy funds or other charitable funds can be used to further your long-term community investment programmes to support charities, please contact me at SRandhawa@cafonline.org