5p bag levy sees fewer single use carrier bags

Carrier bags by Monticello (via Shutterstock).
Less waste: with fewer carrier bags being taken at the checkout, the 5p levy has resulted in more people reusing previously purchased bags. Image by Monticello (via Shutterstock).


This time one year ago, the 5p bag levy was akin to being the spawn of Satan. For a time, charging for carrier bags seemed like Armageddon for some commentators (though Kwik Save did so from the 1980s till its demise in 2007). Almost to the point it was claimed that oceans would rise; that house prices would fall; and that aeroplanes would fall from the sky. A year on, none of the hysterics happened. We lived our lives normally and adapted to the changes pretty well.

How well did we adjust to the five pence levy? Very well indeed. A survey from Cardiff University has noticed some changes in shoppers’ habits since its imposition. Though similar schemes are successful in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, its success in England was a potentially sterner test. The results are staggering. It was stated that:

  • 90% of shoppers reuse their carrier bags;
  • Only 7% of shoppers opt for carrier bags at the checkout;
  • One in two shoppers take their own bags for the carriage of clothing;
  • Increased support for 5p levy – and similar waste management levies for plastic water bottles.

As a result of the five pence levy, 90% of us shoppers reuse previously purchased carrier bags. Alongside single use bags that are widely available, this has meant reusable jute bags, rucksacks, and longer lasting ‘Bag For Life’ plastic carrier bags. As a consequence, only 7% of shoppers buy a bag each time they visit their local shops. This is a substantial drop from 25% in October 2015.

With clothiers eschewing plastic bags in favour of fashionable paper-based carrier bags, more shoppers have elected to reuse them instead of plumping for new bags. Last October, 10% of those surveyed did just that. Today, this figure stands at 50%.

Professor Wouter Poortinga, who headed the study at Cardiff University said: “Overall, our research has shown that the English carrier bag charge has had a strong and positive impact on people’s attitudes and behaviours and that it successfully disrupted people using plastic bags.

“We’ve seen that the charge has become increasingly popular with the English population since it was introduced, and that it has changed attitudes towards waste policies as well.”

Increased support for five pence levy and similar waste management schemes

In spite of the doomsday predictions from some quarters, 51% of shoppers favoured the 5p levy on the 05 October 2015. Today, this figure has climbed to 62%. Plus, there is increased support for the extension of similar schemes. For example, a levy on plastic water bottles. Or a much needed boost for rinse and return schemes (who remembers returning empty pop bottles to the local off-licence?). Among the suggestions mooted is a deposit scheme for plastic bottles, or a levy on disposable coffee cups.

So far, Starbucks Coffee rewards its customers with a modest discount for using their own mug instead of a disposable one. This is one small step, but advertising it as a discount for individual mugs rather than a levy for disposables is the way to go. So far, for disposable cup recycling, this is only the beginning.

Overview: Carrier Bag Charges

There has been a 5p levy on carrier bags in England since the 05 October 2015. Retail businesses with fewer than 200 employees are exempt from the charge, which should benefit independent shops. Furthermore, free carrier bags can only be dispensed if used to carry fresh food (for example: meat from the local butchers, or a small bag for the carriage of takeaway food including sandwiches).

For more details, GOV.UK has a helpful guide, which includes a video clip.

Clean Hire, 30 September 2016.

Shocking findings on why a coffee mug is best washed at home

Unwashed mug by Anton Watman
Home is Where Your Mug Should Be Washed: the University of Arizona’s research recommends washing your works mug at home, in a dishwasher. Image by Anton Watman (via Shutterstock).


The works kitchen or brewing up area is in many cases a good help for many colleagues. It saves on the cost of several Costabucks coffees. Some have microwave ovens which are good for warming up food from home. Some even have dishwashers. Nothing beats being able to use your own mug as well.

But – and this is a massive but – the University of Arizona has revealed a study that would chill Britain’s tea lovers to the bone. With the communal nature of the office or site kitchen, the chances of bacteria are far greater. You may be better off eating your sandwiches off the floor after one of Clean Hire’s industrial vacuums have put in a shift.

The report was created by Charles Gerba, a professor of environmental microbiology at University of Arizona. He said that washing up sponges are a magnet for bacteria, owing to the amount of mugs that have been cleaned. Instead of one mug, the same sponge may have been used on twenty of them.

Though a little inconvenient, he suggests getting your favourite coffee mug washed at home. If available, in a dishwasher. There are two figures alone, which are a good enough reason for carting your mug on the 1754 train from St. Helens Junction (other National Rail stations are available of course). Firstly, 90% – yes a staggering 90% – of cups in the control group harboured dangerous germs like e Coli and salmonella.

Secondly, 20% of mugs contained traces of faecal matter. This due to some colleagues who may have refrained from washing their hands after using the toilet.

So, the moral of the story is: whilst at home, wash your office mug in the dishwasher. You could consider using paper cups, but tea in a styrofoam or paper cup can never beat a proper mug.

Clean Hire, 19 September 2016

How a central vacuum cleaner, underneath the former West Side Line in New York City aims to keep the city’s much-loved elevated park in tip-top condition.

High Line Corridor NYC image

A revolutionary system of pneumatic tubes is set to improve the cleanliness of one of New York City’s most popular open spaces. Pneumatic tubes, akin to a giant central vacuum cleaner, will be used to keep the High Line linear park clean. It is part of a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in NYC by 80%, by 2050.

All of the tubes will be placed underneath the park’s elevated walkway, which is 1.5 mile in length from The West Village to 34th Street. The city’s proposed network of tubes is inspired by a similar system on Roosevelt Island and is championed by ClosedLoops, who have overseen the project’s development since 2010.

At pedestrian level, there will be a trio of bins every few yards. One bin will be used for the disposal of food waste (half-eaten burgers and sandwiches) with a second one for recyclable refuse, and a third one for non-recyclable rubbish. These will be connected to a pneumatic tube. There will be a separate pneumatic tube for restaurant food waste and a branch from Chelsea Market.

Like an enormous central vacuum cleaner, the allegorical vacuum bags will be the system’s anaerobic digestion facilities. The waste is containerised and sent by rail for recycling. Its railhead is a few yards from the northern end of High Line park (which is the junction of 34th Street and 12th Avenue).

As part of its environmental strategy, the giant central vacuum cleaner will see fewer dustcarts along the High Line park. The idea’s nothing new; it is reminiscent of similar practices In the UK with local authority housing estates. Known as the Garchey system, the waste disposal unit of a sink would be an outlet for disposing refuse.

This was implemented in the now-demolished Quarry Hill Flats in Leeds, and at the soon to be fully-refurbished Park Hill Estate in Sheffield. As waste consumption increased due to consumer spending, its limitations were evident. New York’s scheme aims to improve on previous practices and we think they could be on to a winner.

Clean Hire, 14 September 2016.