An academic survey of the carrier bag levy in Wales has caused the Welsh Government to redraft its advice for businesses.

Impacts

  • The media attention led Cardiff University's Policy Team to use the study for the first of a series of policy briefings for the Welsh Assembly, causing the Welsh Government to redraft its advice for businesses.
  • The Welsh Audit Office subsequently consulted BRASS on the lessons learned from the study to see if they could be applied more generally to influence public behaviour towards waste.
  • The Northern Ireland Department for Environment have also been in ongoing consultation with BRASS since the publication of the report.
  • Social and business organisations such as the Federation of Small Business and Keep Wales Tidy have used the report to advise their members and back up their campaigns.

"The carrier bag levy has been a resounding success. Reports from supermarkets show reductions of up to 90 per cent, something to be celebrated." (Welsh Assembly Member Rebecca Evans in Ministers’ Question Time, 2012)

About the research

Researchers from the ESRC's Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS) at Cardiff University surveyed 600 people in Cardiff to find out their reactions to the carrier bag levy, introduced by the Welsh Government in 2011. They found that most people actually agreed with the principle of paying for carrier bags, but only if the proceeds went to charity. When they learned that the extra charge goes to a charity of the shop’s choice, many shoppers said they would be willing to pay more than the extra 5p.

In its survey of retailers, the study found that the majority were passing on the proceeds to charity, and that 66 per cent of shops reported a reduction in carrier bag usage, with large national stores reporting a reduction of over 80 per cent. Sales of ‘Bags for Life’ also increased by up to 1200 per cent in some stores.

The publication of BRASS’s report in September 2011 provoked a massive media response in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, US, India and Armenia. This enabled the research to reach a broad constituency in society and government throughout the world.

Ms Lori Frater, who led the project, believes that wide impact of the study is due to the way the project was designed. "One of our key objectives was to determine how best to get the media to report on an academic study," she says. "That it has been taken up not just by governments but by businesses and by campaigners in other countries to push for similar legislation, testifies to the success of our new methodology."

On 15 December 2011 the Welsh Environment Minister cited the BRASS report in his advice to Christmas shoppers, reminding them of the popularity of the levy and encouraging them to take their own bags: "Cardiff University has carried out research that indicates that three out of five people in Wales support the charge," he said.