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The price of a supermarket plastic bag has just gone up

Have you noticed the increase yet?

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Nickolay Romensky / Flickr

The price of a plastic carrier bag has now risen in every major supermarket across the UK.

The initial 5p charge for plastic carrier bags first came into force in October 2015 – before the charge was introduced, over 7.6 billion single-use carrier bags were given to customers by major supermarkets in England during 2014. 

That’s around 140 bags per person, the equivalent of about 61,000 tonnes in total, as per the Gov.uk website.

Since the scheme was introduced, the number of bags used has gone down by more than 95% across the country.

@MabelAmber / Pixabay

However, there is still room for improvement. 

Plastic carrier bags take longer to decompose than normal bags and, despite the remarkable drop in usage, they continue to pose a threat to the environment and local wildlife.

So the government has decided to take action, six years on from the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge.

As of May 21st, last Friday, shoppers now have to pay at least 10p for a plastic bag – double the minimum price previously.

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The government hopes that by doubling the cost to all retailers, it can help reduce plastic waste even further.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The introduction of the 5p charge has been a phenomenal success, driving down sales of harmful plastic bags in supermarkets by a remarkable 95%.

“We know we must go further to protect our natural environment and oceans, which is why we are now extending this charge to all businesses.”

By increasing the charge to 10p, the government estimates that over the next ten years, the benefits of the scheme will include an expected benefit of over £331 million to the economy, a reduction of 21% in the number of carrier bags supplied across all bag types, and an 80% reduction of the number of single-use carrier bags issued by small and medium retailers.

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Manchester Christmas Markets are BACK: Everything we know so far about this year’s event

Here’s everything you need to know

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Mike Peel / Wikimedia Commons & Andrew Stawarz / Flickr

Last night, it was announced that the 2021 Manchester Christmas Markets will officially be going ahead.

The news was confirmed to Hits Radio Manchester by the council, who revealed that the famed markets will be open to the public from Friday November 12th through to Wednesday  December 22nd. 

The council confirmed that the markets will be set up on nine different sites across Manchester, with the ice rink returning to Cathedral Gardens in late October. There will also be a new Winter Wonderland in Piccadilly Gardens.

@mcrchristmasmarkets / Instagram

It was also confirmed that the iconic giant Father Christmas will be returning to St. Peter’s Square. 

Councillor Pat Karney, Manchester City Council’s Christmas spokesperson, said on the news: “I’m really really excited. It’s incredibly important that Manchester’s Christmas economy has this boost because tens of thousands of jobs are dependent on Manchester having a great Christmas.

“People will just want to get together in a safe way. We’ll make sure that it’s safe – and just enjoy being human again and enjoying Christmas. It’s very important for all the young people in the city that they have a Christmas to remember.

“The pictures that we’ve had of Albert Square over the years where people have been standing on top of each other – that’s a million miles from what we’ll be doing this year. Each site will have very very clear entry and exit arrangements so that we don’t take any public health issues with crowds.”

@mcrchristmasmarkets / Instagram

Last year, in what would have been the markets’ twenty-first birthday, the festivities were cancelled as a result of the pandemic, much to the dismay of Mancunians all across the region.

At the time, Councillor Pat Karney said that even the proposed smaller markets didn’t meet public health approval, adding that the council ‘could never take any risks’ with people’s wellbeing.

He said: “We’ve cancelled everything. It’s not met our commercial and public health tests, so the three markets in those locations have been cancelled, and won’t take place. It was a million miles from the traditional Christmas Markets, which obviously people would have been very anxious about.”

Further details surrounding the markets are yet to be announced.

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Fears more people could be going to A&E due to shortage in face-to-face GP appointments

Councillors are worried that residents are resorting to A&E departments as a result of lengthy GP waits

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A local council has expressed concerns over the rise in residents using A&E services as a result of the waiting times for GP appointments.

In its latest meeting, Rossendale Borough Council discussed concerns over the current booking systems and availability of in-person appointments since the pandemic. 

Councillor Alan Neal fears that patients are visiting NHS walk-in centres and accident and emergency departments as an alternative to the lengthy waiting times to see their own doctors.

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Speaking at the meeting, Neal said: “This is not a criticism of the medical profession. It is a criticism of the organisational system.

“A few years ago, CCGs [clinical commissioning group] were were set up across the country but, sadly, that system is not fit for purpose.”

Council Leader Coun Alyson Barne added: “I do not want to appear critical of healthcare workers at this time. They have had a terrible time and some of our GPs have been at the forefront of the Covid vaccine programme.

“But I know there have been difficulties with getting through to GPs. Some of the problem appears to be with technology and I hope that will be looked at the in the scrutiny exercise.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of people waiting for NHS treatment in England grew by a fifth, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, who found that 5.3 million people were waiting for treatment in May 2021, a jump of 4.4 million from February 2020. 

Karen Apricot / Flickr

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, previously warned that the crisis is ‘going to get a lot worse before it gets better’, writing on Twitter: “The Covid backlog for appointments is sadly going to get a lot worse before it gets better, as more people start to come forward. Tackling that is going to take time – but it will be one of my top priorities.”

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that the waiting times need to be addressed, saying  backlogs ‘need to be cleared as fast as possible’.

He told the BBC that around nine million NHS treatments could be funded by a newly proposed government investment while also urging people – particularly younger age groups – to get vaccinated against Covid.

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UK county becomes first place in country to ban outdoor smoking by 2025

The plan is for the whole country to be completely smoke free by 2030

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@ barneyibbotson / Instagram & Max Pixel

The UK’s first ever outdoor smoking ban is set to be implemented as councils clamp down on cigarette use across the country.

Oxfordshire will become the first county in the country to enforce the controversial ban, with many others set to follow in an attempt to be ‘cigarette-free’ by 2025, just four years from now.

Oxfordshire council has also put in place their own goals to reduce smoking, including bringing the percentage of teenagers who smoke down to 3% and decreasing smoking among manual workers to 10%.

@iriser / Unsplash

They also aim to reduce the amount of smokers with mental illness to under 20% and pregnant smokers to below 4%, according to Oxfordshire Live. The report claims that the government plans to award areas with the smoke free title once 5% or less of the population smoke.

Though the council has stressed that this is not a ban as such, but rather an attempt to create an environment where people are encouraged to not smoke.

Dr. Adam Briggs, the health official leading the plans, said in a report that smoking was the number one factor that lead to preventable deaths in Oxford and had cost a huge £120 million each year.

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The NHS seconded this, saying that second-hand smoking alone can lead to a whole array of illnesses and diseases, such as lung-cancer. According to their figures, living with someone who smokes increases a non-smokers chance of having lung cancer by 25% alone.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has also warned of the consequences of smoking, saying the habit has killed more people than Covid has since the beginning of the pandemic, with an estimate that 900,000 people a year die as a result of smoking.

Back in June, it was reported that Manchester City Council is one of the five councils starting to slowly implement measures to reduce smoking in public spaces and outdoor hospitality venues. 

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