Tesco has been criticised for deducting millions of pounds from the money raised by the 5p plastic bag charge.
According to the latest available statistics, the nation's biggest supermarket has sold 637 million bags, raising just under £32 million in the process. However, unlike most of its rivals, Tesco has chosen to pocket £3.4 million of this to cover what it describes as "administrative costs" of running the scheme.
The proceeds raised by the charge, which was introduced in England in October 2015, are intended for good causes as per Government guidance.
We wrote earlier this year about how Tesco was risking public anger by not donating the entire 5p to charity, but this is the first time it's been revealed exactly how much money the supermarket was pocketing.
Commenting on the findings, Mary Creagh, MP and chair of the environmental audit committee said: “The legislation for the 5p plastic bag charge is clear that the money raised should go to good causes.
"Five years after the horsemeat scandal and three years after a false accounting scandal, Tesco finds itself again in the spotlight for doing the wrong thing. They should drop this ridiculous charge immediately.”
The money from the 5p bag charge should go to good causes. Tesco is back in the spotlight for doing the wrong thing. https://t.co/iOM1hj0u4t— Mary Creagh (@MaryCreaghMP) September 7, 2017
Explaining the controversial decision, a Tesco spokesperson said: “Our Bags of Help scheme ensures that customers get a say in how the money they spend on bags is spent in their community.
"A small proportion of the money raised is used to run and administer the scheme in partnership with the charity Groundwork, who help distribute the money to good causes.”
Switch to 10p bags
The news comes as Tesco is scrapping its 5p carrier bags across all stores, replacing them with the 10p Bag for Life instead.
That's an interesting move, as proceeds from the Bags for Life don’t need to go to charity.
However, Tesco has pledged to continue making donations from money raised.
The thicker bags are made from 94% recycled plastic and will be exchanged free of charge if they get damaged.
Death of the 5p bag?
Tesco isn't the first one to go down this route: Sainsbury’s faced similar controversy after it scrapped 5p bags.
It did donate money raised from its more durable bags to charity, but wouldn’t specify how much or where it is donated to as it’s “commercially sensitive” information.
The supermarket said: “We are still donating all profits from these bags to good causes, alongside the levy charged for the single-use carrier bags distributed through online orders.
"This will be in addition to what we already raise for charity, which last year was £52 million.
“We think this is the best way to do the right thing for the environment, whilst still supporting good causes.”
For a more in-depth look, check out The 5p carrier bag charge: where does your money actually go?
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