In a statement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that “Billions of harmful plastic bags have been stopped from blighting our towns and countryside thanks to the single-use carrier bag charge, new figures reveal today (29 July).”
The department said that since the 5p charge was introduced in supermarkets in, plastic bag usage at the main retailers has dropped “by a staggering 97%”. As a result of the charge, Defra said the number of bags used had reduced by over 20% from 627 million in 2019/20 to 496 million in 2021/22.”
And the department made strong claims about the planned DRS, saying that “our deposit return scheme will ensure billions more drinks bottles and cans are returned to shops and recycled”.
The recently appointed junior environment minister Steve Double (who has responsibility for recycling) also remarked on the DRS as well as carrier bags. He said: “Our plastic bag charge has ended the sale of billions of single-use bags… There is much more to do to tackle the problem of plastic waste. That is why we are building on our single-use plastic bans and introducing the deposit return scheme for bottles to fight back against littering and drive up recycling rates.”
Mr Double made no mention of when the details of the DRS will be announced – these are now thought to be being delayed until some time after the election of the Conservative leader and new prime minister in September.
Front of store collection
Commenting on the reduction in the bag use, Adam Herriot, sector specialist, resource management, at WRAP spoke of the growth in collection point for flexible plastics such as carrier bags.
“Flexibles remain one of the most common plastics in our bins, but just like pots tubs and trays we’re now at a point where the tide is turning on flexible plastics. Today, nearly 5,000 stores nationwide have front of store collections where people can drop off their unusable bags once they reach their end of life.
We’re now at a point where the tide is turning on flexible plastics
“So not only do we have less single-use shopping bags to worry about, we have somewhere convenient to put them when we go shopping to make sure they are recycled.”
Defra also highlighted other government actions “to turn the tide on plastic waste”. It said: “We have already banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and restricted the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.
“We have consulted on banning single use plastic cutlery, plates and certain types of polystyrene cups, and are also looking at evidence on other problematic single use plastics – including wet wipes.”
Carrier bag data