PRESS RELEASE: Plastic bags levy – waterways campaigners seek retailer support for canal cleanups

Issue date: 5th October 2015

Retailers in England are being urged by The Inland Waterways Association, a leading waterways charity, to help improve local communities by allocating substantial amounts from a windfall levy on plastic shopping bags towards cleaning up canal and river amenities, which are blighted by plastic and other waste.

Thousands of volunteer hours are spent each year removing tonnes of waste from the country’s inland waterways, and the charity that undertakes much of this work is calling on retailers, who from early October will introduce a new 5 pence charge for disposable plastic shopping bags, to help the environment where many of these bags end up.

The Inland Waterways Association has revealed that in 2014 its volunteers dedicated 7,000 hours to canal cleanup work parties across the country, up 45% on 2013. Along with some unexpected finds are considerable quantities of “the usual suspects”, the charity said, including supermarket trollies, plastic bags, bottles and other packaging waste.

Les Etheridge, IWA’s chairman, appealed to medium and larger retailers, who will be required to collect the charge from customers under the Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015, to use some of this levy to support efforts to enhance the waterways environment.  “The new law allows them to decide what ‘good causes’ they will support with what promises to be substantial sums of money,” Les Etheridge said.  “Donating some of this levy to support IWA’s year-on-year cleanup efforts will deliver long-term benefits to marine habitats and, of course, to the communities which surround them,” he said.

IWA campaigns officer Alison Smedley said: “Plastic and packaging waste in particular is terrible for the waterways habitat and for marine life, as well as for the wider enjoyment of the waterways’ millions of annual visitors. These are hugely popular places for leisure and well-being, so this levy is a massive opportunity for both retailers and waterways bodies such as ourselves to make a real difference.”

According to government (DEFRA) figures, in 2013 supermarkets gave out over 8 billion single-use carrier bags across the UK – nearly 130 bags per person – equating to about 57,000 tonnes of single-use carrier bags in total over the year.

Retailers keen to support IWA’s charitable work on the waterways can get further information from the Association at


Source - DEFRA Policy paper: 2010 to 2015 government policy: waste and recycling.

Press contact:  For more information please contact Alison Smedley, Campaigns Officer, The Inland Waterways Association: email or phone 07779 090915.

Notes for Editors

The Inland Waterways Association

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA), a registered charity, leads campaigns to conserve, maintain and restore Britain’s network of canal and river waterways. With a membership of around 16,000, IWA provides a strong voice for waterways users, working with navigation authorities, local and national government and other organisations to keep all our waterways alive.


Photo Caption: Plastic bags in canal
Photo caption: Litter picking on the Nottingham Canal

Please credit The Inland Waterways Association

For higher resolution images please contact:

Alison Smedley
or phone 07779 090915