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What bags are not included in the charge?


What bags are not included in the charge?

There are a few types of bag that are not covered by the single use carrier bag charge. These are bags that are designed to be reused regularly or for use away from the premises selling them. There are also some exemptions from the charge.

Bags that are not covered by the charge include those made from:

  • cloth
  • jute
  • cotton
  • hessian.

Also, thick plastic ‘bags for life’ are exempt from the charge as they are designed to be reused.

A bag will only be charged for once. So if a charity shop gave out bags that had already been used, the shoppers would not need to pay the charge on those bags.

Exemptions to the charge

Sometimes a single use carrier bag may be needed for food safety, hygiene, animal welfare and public safety. These are called “exemptions”. You do not need to charge your customers for a single use carrier bag if its use falls under an exemption below.  

The exemptions are:

  • a. Food items that are unwrapped – loose fruit and vegetables, bread, pick and mix sweets etc. This includes food items that are partly unwrapped – food placed in a sleeve or other part open wrapper.
  • b. Loose seeds, bulbs, corms or rhizomes – loose grass seed, flower bulbs, seed potatoes etc.
  • c. Unpackaged blades - axe, knife blade or razor blade.
  • d. Unpackaged plants or flowers that could have been contaminated by soil.
  • e. Packaged uncooked:
  1. fish or fish products – a pouch of raw fish fillets or raw minced fish meat. 
  2. meat or meat products – pre-packed raw steak or packet of raw beef burgers or sausages etc.
  3. poultry or poultry products – a pack of raw chicken fillets or raw turkey mince etc.

Items listed under exemption e can only be placed in a small bag, such as those found on a roll in the fruit and vegetable aisle.

  • f. Live aquatic creatures in water – fish, coral, crabs etc.
  • g. Bags that are sealed before the point of sale – this would be for items placed in bags and sealed before they are offered to the customer. These are not subject to the charge as the customer has no choice but to accept the bag as part of the packaging.
  • h. On board ships, trains, aircraft, coaches or buses.
  • i. In airports after you pass through security.
  • j. Bags used for mail order.
  • k. Small flat paper bags that do not have handles and are no more than 175mm (width) x 260mm (height) or about the size of a greetings card.
  • l. Very small plastic bags that do not have handles and are no more than 125mm (width) x 125mm (height).  These could be used for very small items such as buttons or small screws.
  • m. Small three dimensional paper bags that do not have a handle and are no more than 80mm (width) x 50mm (gusset width) x 155mm (height).  These are about the size of bottle of cough mixture.
  • n. Gusseted box liners – these are sometimes used to line reusable boxes or cover reusable boxes that are used for deliveries.

Exemption a-f

The law states that you and your customers may only place the above items in the exempt bag. If an item which is not an exempt item is placed in the bag - the bag would need to be charged for.  


You could have loose apples, potatoes and pears in one bag and not have to charge. If you then placed a box of tea bags in there too, you would need to apply the charge.

This is to prevent a loop hole in the law. A person can not put an apple in one bag with lots of other shopping, a potato in another bag with lots of other shopping, a lettuce in another etc. and get all their single use carrier bags for free.

This is also to encourage people to think about their behaviour and habits when using single use carrier bags. The exemptions are there to ensure food safety and protect the consumer from potential cross-contamination from reusable bags.

If you went to a fast food restaurant and purchased a packet of fries and a burger then the fries can be placed in a free bag as they are only part wrapped and you would not be expected to place these in a reusable bag as there could be some food safety risks.  If the burger is also placed in the bag, then the bag would be charged for.  This is because it is safe to place wrapped food into a reusable bag and the purpose of these Regulations is to change customer behaviour every time they shop and in every situation.  

The exemptions k - m are about selecting the appropriate bag for the job. We would hope people will use appropriately sized bags and not over-package.

Bags can have a lower environmental impact than alternative packaging. The Welsh Government does not want products to have more packaging and a higher impact on the environment, due to the charge on single use carrier bags.

Customers can choose to place items in their own reusable bags rather than accept an exempt bag. The law does not state that these goods must be placed in a ‘free’ single use carrier bag.

However it is a commercial decision for retailers as to whether they charge for bags that are not subject to the charge.