Plastic bag use falls by more than 98% after charge introduction

The UK has seen a more than 98% decline in the use of plastic bags due to charges on single-use carrier bags, according to new figures released by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) on 31st July.

In 2015, several supermarket chains, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, Morrisons, Co-op, and Marks and Spencer, introduced a charge of 5p on single-use plastic bags. In 2021, this charge was increased to 10p.

Consequently, the associated figures show that more than seven billion harmful plastic bags have been prevented from being discarded on the streets and countryside.

UK Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We are determined to do more to tackle plastic pollution at source, with further bans on single-use products starting in October and our deposit return scheme will cut litter and drive up recycling rates.”

Defra’s findings revealed that the average person in England now only purchases two single-use plastic bags annually from these retailers, while this figure was 140 before the implementation of charges in 2015.

A total of 133 million single-use bags were sold by retailers in 2022-23, reflecting a decline of 33% from 197 million in 2021-2022.

Defra states this was a massive drop from 7.6 billion plastic carrier bags sold/used in 2014.
After the revised price of 10p was introduced in 2021, the number of bags used by consumers plummeted by more than 35% to 406 million in 2022/23, compared to 627 million in 2019-20.

British Retail Consortium director for food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Retailers have worked closely with government over single-use bag charges to ensure it has been an industry-wide success – with 98% fewer bags used across biggest grocery retailers.

“It has also generated millions in funds that retailers have donated to various good causes.”

The Government is taking further measures to combat plastic pollution and litter with its Environment Act. This includes implementing a deposit return scheme for drink containers and simpler recycling collections for all households and businesses in England.

From 1st October, a range of polluting single-use plastics will be banned, such as plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain polystyrene cups and food containers.

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