News

02 August 2016

Carrier bag charge in England sees usage plummet by 6.5 billion within 6 months

The number of plastic shopping bags handed out by retailers in England has dropped from seven billion to just over half a billion within six months, following the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge last October.

New figures released over the weekend by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were praised by green groups as a “massive boon for nature and wildlife”.

More than seven billion plastic bags were handed out by England’s seven major retailers in 2014, but this figure dropped to just over half a billion in the first six months after the 5p charge was introduced in October last year, Defra said.

Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said that the plummeting plastic bag use demonstrates the huge benefits just a small change in our everyday habits can make. It means less damaging plastic finding its inevitable way into our waterways and countryside. This is a massive boon for nature and wildlife. England lagged on this, and should have followed the lead of Wales and Northern Ireland much sooner.

Pendleton believes these figures represent a key sustainable business opportunity to place consumers at the heart of key resource efficiency initiatives – particularly in the wake of the recent success of the War on Waste campaign.  He said that with attention now turning to the millions of non-recyclable coffee cups that go to landfill and to oversized boxes and excess packaging as a by-product of online shopping, the Government and forward-thinking businesses have a golden chance to cut waste and reduce resource use in a sensible way that consumers welcome.

The carrier bag charge also represents something of a CSR success story, with retailers now using the profits gained from the charge to boost a number of social development projects. Asda, for example, announced last week that it would be passing its £1m carrier bag profits onto Scottish social enterprises. Marks & Spencer is also donated half of the proceeds from the bag charge to local charities and the other half to international charities such as Macmillan Cancer Research and the Marine Conservation Society. Tesco has developed its own circular economy solution to turn its back-of-store plastic waste into plastic bags.

Scotland introduced the carrier bag a year earlier than England and has seen a comparable decrease in usage, resulting in £13m in carbon savings and £60m worth of savings in litter and clean-up costs.

Source: edie

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