OC issues guidance on carrier bag charge

The Optical Confederation explains when and how optical practices must comply to the mandatory carrier bag charge introduced in England last year


The Optical Confederation (OC) has issued guidance to support practices in England following the introduction of the mandatory plastic carrier bag charge on 5 October last year.

Established in order to reduce plastic carrier bag usage and environmental damage, the new regulations state that retailers must charge a minimum of 5p for each single-use plastic carrier bag. The charge is enforced by local authorities and is mandatory unless the retailer or items sold are listed as an exemption category.

In the guidance, the OC identifies that optical practices are not exempt from this new legislation, and therefore must comply when necessary. It highlights that while prescribed optical products, including medical supplies, are exempt from the charge, non-prescribed optical products are not, even when sold with the former.

Explaining the regulation further, in the guidance, the OC writes: “As an optical business you must charge for plastic carrier bags if you employ more than 250 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff at the start of each reporting year and the product supplied does not fall under the exemptions.”

The guidance continues: “If your practice is independently owned, or operates under a franchise or joint venture agreement, only the number of FTE staff directly employed or engaged in your own business count towards the number of qualifying FTE staff which determines whether or not you need to charge for carrier bags.”

The mandatory carrier bag charge was introduced in England last October and similar regulations already exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

For full guidance, visit the OC website.

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