Just 24 percent of shoppers’ total spend – £25m – on carrier bags has actually made its way to named charities, latest Government figures have revealed.
Many retailers have admitted keeping the cash to cover costs of the scheme, while others said they gave earnings from the 5p charge to charities – but failed to name them.
HMV raised £135,000 through the sale of 3.2m bags but held onto £60,000 in costs. While WH Smith kept £76,000 of its total £206,000 raised by the charge.
Meanwhile, the Government has been the biggest winner – earning £17m in VAT on takings on bags.
River Island, Halfords, Iceland and Argos were among 50 retailers which confirmed all profit went to charity, but did not provide specific details on where the cash ended up.
A total of £42m is said to have gone to unidentified ‘good causes’, while a further £17m is unaccounted for.
Plastic bag use fell from 7bn in 2014 to 2bn last year, according to the Government figures. However, with retailers able to submit figures without any audit, concerns have been raised over the actual success of the scheme.
Sue Hayman, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, questioned the scheme’s transparency. She said: “Companies should not be allowed to avoid disclosing who they give money to.
“The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs must ensure any missing data is properly accounted for.”
The charge came into force in October 2015 across retailers employing more than 250 staff.
Campaigners have called for the plastic bag charge to be rolled out across all retail businesses in England, as is the case throughout Wales and Scotland.