From 5 October retailers employing 250 or more full-time employees must charge customers a minimum of 5p for single use carrier bags when selling or delivering goods in England.

Retailers with fewer than 250 full-time employees are not required to charge customers but can voluntarily charge if they wish to. Pharmacies that belong to a franchise or group only need to count the employees in their own business, not those in the whole franchise or group.

Large pharmacies must therefore ensure that a minimum of 5p is charged at the point of sale, although paper bags and bags that only contain prescription medicines are exempt from the charge. Other exemptions include bags containing free promotional material and returnable multiuse bags (bags for life).

In addition, records of the following details must be kept each year and sent to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs:

• Number of bags supplied
• Details of ‘reasonable costs’ incurred, for example, administrative costs of donating to good causes, communicating changes to customers and staff, cost of changing till systems or getting expert advice; this cannot include the cost of the bags
• Proceeds of the charge (gross and net)
• VAT on gross proceeds
• What the pharmacy has done with the proceeds — the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) expects proceeds to be given to good causes, preferably environmental causes.

Local authorities will inspect retailers and visit premises to make test purchases, question staff and view records.

For a full list of exempt bags and items, as well as more information and guidance on the new law, visit

Originally Published by Training Matters

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