30 July 2020 by Robyn White

Plastic bag charge ‘cuts sales by over 95%’  

Plastic carrier bag sales have been slashed by more than 95% since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015, government data shows.

According to figures published today (30 July), major supermarkets such as Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-Op, Tesco and Waitrose sold 226 million bags last year, which is 233 million fewer than in 2018-19.

The 5p charge currently applies to all retailers employing over 250 people

The data also shows that the average person in England now buys just four bags a year from the main supermarkets, compared with 10 last year, and 140 in 2014.

The government reported in October 2018 that the charge had seen plastic bag sales in major supermarkets drop by 86%.

The government said that as a result the charge, £178 million has been donated to charitable caused, with £9.2 million donated in the last year.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “It is so encouraging to see in such a short space of time the huge difference our plastic carrier bag charge has had in reducing the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives.”

“We have all seen first-hand the devastating impact that plastic bags have on the environment, littering our beautiful countryside and threatening the world’s marine life. I am committed to driving this progress further and I hope this continues to inspire similar action across the globe.”

Background

The 5p charge for single-use plastic carrier bags came into effect in England on 5 October, 2015.

The scheme aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags, and donate the proceeds to charitable causes.

In January 2019, Defra began consulting on plans to increase the minimum charge for retailers issuing single-use carrier bags to 10p, as well as extending the charge to cover smaller shops

On March 21, however, the 5p charge was waived for online delivery plastic bags, a temporary measure which is expected to end on the 21 September (see letsrecycle.com story).

Mr Eustice said that in light of the coronavirus crisis, the waiver had been put in place to speed up deliveries and reduce the risk of contamination.

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