Expertise | 7 min read

#plasticbagcharge: The UK view

Don't forget to share this post!


#Plasticbags have never been a particularly interesting topic of conversation - whether that is: in person, on television, radio, or in the printing press. Under no circumstances would this matter prove to be tweet-worthy or honoured with an ‘insta’ prefix.

Cue: Monday 5th October 2015.


Carrier bag charge: England has gone into meltdown over the ‘plastic bag crisis’ The Telegraph, 2015


The keywords above, drawn from Radarly, highlight the topics being discussed across the social web in connection with the new plastic bag charge. The larger displays translate encouraging sentiment,


'Break the bag habit'



'Monday Motivation'


'reuse bags'


This brings to light that despite press articles focusing on the consequential ‘meltdown’, ‘chaos’ and ‘crisis’, the UK online community prove to be educated and understanding of the recent development.

The website states estimated benefits for the next decade:

• Overall benefit of over £780 million to the UK economy

• up to £730 million raised for good causes

• £60 million savings in litter clean-up costs

• Carbon savings of £13 million


Amongst the assortment of positivity, is a selection of posts demonstrating an alternative view - many see opportunities for ‘marketing’ and vocalise certain ‘business’ prospects. Brands have resourcefully used popular hashtags [#plasticbags #plasticbagcharge #5pbagcharge] in order to promote their own line of fashion accessories/totes/bags for life.

wordcloud charity

The data suggests that charities supporting research into dementia will see huge benefits from this charge. When creating word clouds surrounding the terms 'donate' and 'fund', 'Dementia' is identified as one of the most talked about subjects. Although it is discussed online, the charitable aspect of this revolution continues to be a little overlooked. When triggering a word cloud from the search term ‘give’ more negative than positive sentiment was drawn: 'golddigger' and 'makeaprofit'.

The above Radarly clouds highlight a disparity in the focus of discussion for businesses and consumers. Organisations emphasise the charity element, whereas the individual user focuses on other issues, such as price.

[4,950 tweets]

This figure suggests accentuated attention on the financial function of the matter.

Insights provided by Radarly indicate the average UK Social Media user to be pragmatic regarding the ban, with many conversations surrounding reuse of carrier bags. A series of humorous comments and jokes are amongst the most viral of tweets:

“As a child I used to wonder why my parents would stash plastic bags within plastic bags, they saw the future man. Parents saw everything.”

[1927 retweets, 2309 favourites]

“I imagine the 5p charge for #plastic bags has brought chaos to the pricing structure in Poundland.”

[566 retweets, 713 favourites]



Many supermarkets are being mentioned across the social platforms, yet there are a particular few that have gained more traction than others.

Tesco: Tesco shoppers comprise the largest group of tweeters regarding the plastic bag chaos. The supermarket chain encountered significant media attention following stories of security tags and trolley theft.

M & S: A number of consumers highlight the fact that Marks and Spencer has been charging for bags since 2008.

Sainsbury’s: While the press discuss the ‘legal loop-hole’ Sainbury’s is allegedly using to escape the mandatory charity donation, on social media the high quality of the Supermarket’s bags is being spoken about.

The plastic bag subject has elicited an enormous amount of debate and commenting across the social web, with a large percentage of people taking to twitter to voice their opinions. Currently, there are over 80,000 related tweets, peaking at almost 25,000 on Monday 5th October. It can only be hoped that this impact is a reflection of what influence the change could have.

We listen as England joins Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in saving the environment and donating millions to charity.


Don't forget to share this post!