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When you’re doing the supermarket shop, you’re constantly looking for ways to save money – buy one, get one free deals, reduced products, switching to budget stores. But now there could be a charge we’ll all have to pay, as supermarkets in England will start charging 5p for each plastic carrier bag you use from 5th October.

If you’re used to shopping at the budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl, this won’t be anything new. These stores have charged for carrier bags for years, and seasoned shoppers here are used to bringing bags with them for their shopping. However, if the store you shop at offered free plastic bags before, you could be caught out by this change.

Adding up the cost

Supermarkets in Wales have already been charging for plastic carrier bags since 2011 and reports show that in those four years, the number of bags used has fallen by 71 per cent. One of the main reasons the charge is being introduced in England is to discourage people from using as many plastic carrier bags and instead switch to more eco-friendly options. However, it will be unwitting customers who'll have to bear the cost.

5p for a carrier bag might not be a lot of money, but it can quickly add up. If you use six plastic bags each time you do your weekly shop for your family – and it could even be more than this if you just pop in during the week for a mini shop – this is around £15.60 a year. And that’s £15.60 a year you’d rather keep in your pocket than give to the supermarkets.

You won’t be charged for all bags. Shops with more than 250 employees will fall under the new rule and the charge will only apply to plastic carrier bags, not paper ones. You’ll also be allowed a free bag if you’re buying certain items – raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, uncovered razor blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers.

Reusing bags

You’ve probably got a drawer or even a cupboard full of plastic carrier bags at home. They’re just taking up space there, so try and remember to take a few with you each time you go shopping. You could even stuff a couple in your handbag or your bag for work so if you decide to pop into the supermarket to pick up a few things on your way home, you won’t have to buy a bag.

For something a bit more long-lasting, you could buy some reusable ‘bags for life’. You can pick these up from all of the major supermarkets and they can hold quite a lot of shopping. With some stores, you only have to buy the bags once as when they wear out and break, you can just go back to the supermarket and you’ll be given a replacement. Over the long-run, this is certainly the cheaper option, as you don’t have to waste money each time you shop.

For more tips on saving on your grocery shop, check out our blog on how you can understand supermarket deals.

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