10p charge helps bring plastic bag use down by over 20 per cent

Plastic bag sales down 86% since 5p charge
(Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The increase in single-use carrier bag charge to 10p last year has helped further bring the number of bags used down by over 20 per cent, new figures show.

The number of bags used in 2021-22 came down to 627 million, from 627 million in 2019-20, according to the data released to by the Defra.

The 5p charge was introduced in supermarkets in 2015 and since then usage at the main retailers has dropped by a staggering 97 per cent. The average person in England now buys around three single-use carrier bags a year from the main supermarkets, compared with around 140 in 2014.

The charge was last year increased to 10p and extended to all businesses.

“Our plastic bag charge has ended the sale of billons of single-use bags, protecting our landscapes and ensuring millions of pounds is redistributed to worthy causes,” Environment Minister Steve Double said.

“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.”

The number of single-use carrier bags reported by the main retailers was 197 million in 2021-22, down from 271 million in 2019-2020, the previous comparable year due to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-21 – a reduction of 27 per cent. This is a huge drop from the 7.6 billion used in 2014 before the charge was introduced.

In 2021-22, retailers donated £10 million to good causes in education, arts, heritage, sports, environment, health, charity or volunteering sectors, or causes chosen by customers and staff. Over £200 million has been voluntarily donated by retailers to good causes since the introduction of the charge.