Queen's Speech 2014: Professor Isabelle Szmigin discusses the plastic bag tax


It’s debatable whether or not the proposed 5p levy on plastic bags could be described as a bold new bill, when the Environmental Audit Committee called the proposals “a complete mess”. But it should be taken seriously, and it has positive advantages for both consumers and businesses.

Consumers may be a little disgruntled to begin with but the experience in both Wales and Ireland suggests they will soon get over it, and bringing bags out shopping will be as normal as picking up a chocolate bar at the checkout. There’s no harm in anything that makes us more thoughtful shoppers, even if we have to be forced to do it.

And what is the benefit for businesses? “Bags for life” will become the norm – even if traditional shopping baskets don’t – and this provides an opportunity both for showing off their sustainability credentials, and more interesting opportunities for colour and design in the advertising messages they carry. If as is planned the money from the levy is put towards good causes, so much the better. As with smokers being sent outside, sometimes a bit of regulating behaviour can be a measure for good.

This article appears as part of a larger article, "Queen’s Speech 2014: the experts respond" on 'The Conversation'; an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.

Professor Isabelle Szmigin is a Professor of Marketing at Birmingham Business School and her research interests lie in the area of conceptualising consumer behaviour and also services and relationship marketing.