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Bag a reusable from October 5...or it will cost you 5p a bag

If you need a plastic carrier bag to carry home your shopping it will cost you 5p a bag from Monday.

The 5p a bag charge is to discourage use of single-use bags and encourage recycling and use of bags for life.

The Government has said the charge will have to be made by larger retailers - those employing 250 or more full timers. Smaller businesses can introduce the charge on a voluntary basis.

There will be exceptions, such as when the bag is used to hold uncooked fish or meat, unwrapped food, such as chips, loose product such as seeds or items such as potatoes which have been contaminated by soil, sharp objects such as knives and razor blades, prescription medicines, live fish and for dry cleaning or shoe repairs.

The Government has introduced penalties of up to £5,000 for those who break the rules.

Cllr Michael Brookes, Boston Borough Council's portfolio holder for refuse and recycling, said: "Plastic bags are a major element of litter and as well as the environmental concerns there is also the concern about use of finite resources. Smaller shops and market traders will not, by legislation, have to make the 5p charge, but I would encourage them to consider doing so, or at least encourage their customers to re-use their plastic bags or even invest in a bag for life.

"I know that margins are tight for businesses, but I am appealing for people to see the bigger picture and consider future generations. We just all need to do a little bit."

There are masses of sensible arguments against our continued dependence on plastic bags. The argument for their continued use is that they are cheap. That's it. But not as cheap as using a non-plastic bag over and over again.

But if you are still convinced by the argument that plastic bags are cheap, and handy, what about the argument that they are choking the planet and wildlife on and in it?

Plastic bags do not biodegrade, whatever you might have been told. The plastic they are made from pretty much lasts forever and they are made from oil - a finite fuel source. Plastic bags are hardly ever recycled as plastic bags - energy is used to turn them into other things, which are then pretty much unrecyclable.

The only sure fire way of getting rid is, sure, FIRE. But burning plastic releases some really noxious fumes. Except for the small percentage that has been incinerated, every single molecule of plastic that has ever been manufactured is still somewhere in the environment, and some 100 million tons of it are floating in the oceans.

Every sea and ocean on the planet now has plastic in it. In big volumes. And 80 per cent of that plastic started off on land. The Pacific now has a vast swirling plastic-polluted area twice the size of France.

Fifty years ago nearly all that flotsam was biodegradable. These days it is 90 per cent plastic. Three million tons of it.

And it's not just floating on the surface. Small plastic flecks, swirling like coloured flakes in a snowglobe, descend for up to ten metres... across an area twice the size of France. They outweigh, by six times, the very plankton at the bottom of the food chain upon which so many other species depend.

Plastic photodegrades. Prolonged exposure to sunlight causes it to break down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Worldwide, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, plastic is killing

a million seabirds a year, and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles. It kills by entanglement. It kills by choking. It kills by clogging up digestive tracts. Bottle caps, pocket combs, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators, cottonbud shafts, toothbrushes, toys, syringes and plastic shopping bags are routinely found in the stomachs of dead seabirds and turtles.

A study of fulmar carcases that washed up on North Sea coastlines found that 95 per cent had plastic in their stomachs - an average of 45 pieces per bird.

Plastic has been found inside zooplankton and filter-feeders such as mussels and barnacles.

Single-use plastic bags first appeared in British supermarkets in the late 1960s. We had managed without them up to that point.

Worldwide more than a trillion are manufactured every year. The total global production of plastic, which was five million tons in the 1950s, is expected to hit 260 million tons this year. In the UK alone 7.6 billion plastic bags were handed out in 2014.

The best solution is not to use plastic bags. Bring a reusable canvas bag out shopping with you. And refuse a plastic bag if offered. Not everything you buy needs to be carried home in a plastic bag.

The number of single-use carrier bags handed out by shops in Wales has fallen by 71 per cent since charges were introduced there in 2011.

A review, for Welsh ministers, estimates between £17 million and £22 million raised by the 5p charge has been donated to good causes by retailers.

The report said 74 per cent of shoppers backed the charge and found the use of "bags for life" and other re-useable bags had resulted in an overall reduction in all bags of 57 per cent.

Northern Ireland and then Scotland have also already introduced charges for single-use plastic bags.

For more information on Government guidance for charging for plastic bags go to http://bit.ly/1JQi0oK