“Big Seven” Supermarkets See 86% Drop In Plastic Bag Sales

Plastic bag sales in England’s “big seven” supermarkets have dropped by 86% since the Government introduced its 5p plastic bag charge in 2015, helping to tackle the devastating impact of plastic waste on our environment.

New figures reveal customers of the country’s biggest supermarkets bought nearly a quarter fewer plastic bags last year compared to 2016/17 – a decrease of nearly 300 million bags.

This is equivalent to just 19 bags per person in England, compared to 140 bags since the government introduced a 5p charge in 2015 – a dramatic reduction of 86%.

Welcoming today’s figures, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “These figures demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment by making simple changes to our daily routines. We want businesses to continue to look at what they can do to help improve our environment to leave it in a better state than we found it.

“It is only by working together we will reverse the rising tide of plastic waste finding its way into our rivers, seas and oceans and the catastrophic impact this is having on our marine environment.”

Michael Gove – “It is only by working together we will reverse the rising tide of plastic waste finding its way into our rivers, seas and oceans and the catastrophic impact this is having on our marine environment.”

Government scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed – with one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals dying every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste, Defra said.

Today’s figures also reveal that for 2017/18 5p plastic bag sales contributed nearly £60m toward charities and other good causes.

A recent study by Cefas revealed since the 5p charge on plastic bags was introduced, which has taken over 9 billion plastic bags out of circulation, there has been an estimated 50% reduction in plastic bag marine litter.

Thomas Maes, Marine Litter Scientist at Cefas said: “Every plastic bag not purchased is one which will not end up in our sea, damaging habitats or harming marine life. Since efforts from across Europe came into effect, including the UK’s 5p charge, we have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the UK as compared to 2010.

“It is encouraging to see the efforts to reduce plastic bag usage by all of society, whether the public, industry, NGOs or government. These figures show that by working together we can tackle the marine litter problem by reducing, reusing and recycling.”


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  1. A bit of a con really as WRAP only counts the bags sold for 5p: not all the other bags people buy to replace the carriers they once re-used!

  2. I think this is only half the story, it doesn’t take into account the increased demand for bin liners, not a problem in itself because as bin liners they and the contents should all be contained within our controlled waste management and recycling infrastructure. Also, what about the increased demand for ‘bags for life’? The UK market for bags for life is currently 2.5 billion, perhaps we should stop referring to them as ‘bags for life’! Those bags are heavier, use more material and energy to produce, and have a global warming potential 5 times greater than the so called single use bags they replace. It’s good that there may be a few less single use carrier bags in litter surveys, on land and sea, but we need to know the effects of the unintended consequences before we celebrate the success of the bag tax, when climate change considerations are taken into account I’m not sure the environment is benefiting that much.

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