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How plastic bags are funding community projects

20 November 2016

Alex Burnett from Groundwork explains how the 5p plastic bag charge is helping retailers to save money and fund important community projects.

Figures show that the plastic bag charge, introduced in England last October, has been great news for the environment. In fact, plastic bag use has dropped by a whopping 85 per cent.

As you probably know, the charge only affects retailers with more than 250 employees. After it started, they had to decide what to do with the money. The good news is that many of them decided to channel that extra cash into good causes and already they’ve donated over £29 million.

In London, I lead on the Bags of Help at Groundwork. It’s a scheme set up by Tesco to support local green projects using the charge. I’m delighted to say that in its first year, Bags of Help shared out £1.92m to192 projects in London. This funding’s helped improve everything from primary schools to housing estates, nature reserves, pocket parks and even an outdoor gym.

One project we supported is CGP Gallery Community Allotments in Southwark Park. With £12,000 they were able to improve the access, size and safety of their allotment space. They’re now able to offer sessions on how to grow your own fruit and veg to some of the poorest Londoners. They’ve also been able to help local families from outside the UK to learn English through gardening activities.

Then there are projects that work across London like the London Beekeepers’ Association. Thanks to the grant, they’ve been able to create new habitats to help London’s bees. This includes recently planting 1,200 wildflower pots at Mudchute Farm in East London. All this has helped raise awareness of the issues affecting bees and London’s natural environment.

More funding on offer this year 

We’re now offering grants of up to £5,000 through the Tesco Bags of Help scheme. This is great news for London. It means in 2017, Bags of Help will have £1.97m to help 680-plus projects. Each month, local community projects can pitch for funding. The grant winners will be decided by public vote in stores. The scheme’s open all year for new applications and now supports an even wider range of projects including:

  • volunteer training
  • physical improvements of open spaces
  • equipment purchases
  • community events
  • sports and leisure activities

If you know of a community project that would benefit from this funding, find out more on the Groundwork website.