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In October, The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015 took effect as well as the introduction of The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015.

On 1st October, The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015 took effect and the 2003 Regulations of the same name were revoked.  The 2015 Regulations are largely a consolidation of changes made to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and follow a commitment made under the Red Tape Challenge.  The substantive requirements regarding the qualities of packaging placed on the market are not changed and continue to mirror the relevant provisions of the Directive.  The 2015 Regulations also include definitions of “plastic” and “plastic carrier bag” which have been taken from a 2015 amendment to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive in relation to consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags.   Member States will be required to take measures to deliver annual consumption levels per person (not exceeding 90 lightweight plastic carrier bags per person by 31 December 2019) and/or (ii) adoption of instruments so that by 31 December 2018 lightweight plastic carrier bags are not provided free of charge at the point of sale of goods or products, unless equally effective instruments are implemented.

This month we saw The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015 come into effect.  England is the last to take this type of action as Wales has had legislation requiring upfront charging for carrier bags in effect since October 2011.  An 80% reduction in consumption of single use plastic bags has been reported since the legislation came into effect in Wales.   Northern Ireland has had similar legislation since April 2013 and Scotland since October 2014.  The obligations in England will apply to large retailers (“sellers”) who will need to charge at least 5p for single use carrier bags.   Money collected can be used to cover reasonable costs of the retailer to comply with the law with the balance expected to be donated to “good causes.”  Government guidance notes that medium and small retailers are free to charge voluntarily.