Plastic bag sales plummet 90% following 5p charge

31st July 2019

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Claire McGeechan

Plastic bags sales from the seven biggest retailers in England have fallen by 90% following the introduction of a 5p charge in 2015, new government figures have revealed.

Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose and the Co-op sold 549 million single-use plastic bags in 2018/19, which was 490 million fewer than the previous year.

And the average person in England now buys just 10 bags a year from the main supermarket retailers, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the 5p charge was introduced.

The figures also show that revenues from the charge have contributed around £169m towards charities and other good causes, with more than £22m raised in 2018/19 alone.

Overall, sales of single-use carrier bags from all large retailers fell by 37% to 1.1 billion in 2018/19.

Environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, said: “Our comprehensive action to slash plastic waste and leave our environment in a better state continues to deliver results.

“No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife. The figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society.“

The 5p charge is just one of several government initiatives to curb plastic waste.

It recently announced its intention to introduce a deposit return scheme for drink containers in 2023, and said that plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds will be banned in England from April 2020.

And its Resources and Waste strategy introduces new rules to ensure that producers pay the full cost of recycling and disposing their packaging.

However, Maddy Haughton-Boakes, litter campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said that the 5p bag charge should apply to all small shops as well as larger ones.

“There is also absolutely no reason why the charge shouldn't be applied to all bags, paper as well as plastic, to bring an end to the use of single-use items altogether,“ she said.

“The continued reduction in plastic bag use in supermarkets is yet more evidence of the huge impact that a small financial incentive can have.“

Image credit: iStock


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