Plastic bag sales down 86% since 5p charge

Plastic bag sales down 86% since 5p charge
A person leaves with their goods in reusable plastic carrier bags after shopping at a branch of Asda in south London on January 10, 2018. (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Plastic bag sales in England’s ‘big seven’ supermarkets have dropped by 86 percent since the government introduced its 5p plastic bag charge in 2015, revealed new figures from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

The data on single use plastic carrier bags published on Friday found shoppers at the seven biggest retailers – Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Co-op, Tesco and Waitrose – 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 reduction of 86 percent.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the figures “demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment” and urged businesses to continue their efforts to leave environment “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,” he added.

Plastic bags have a significant impact on the environment with one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals dying every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. Scientists predict plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed.

A recent study by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science revealed an estimated 50 percent reduction in plastic bag marine litter since the 5p charge on plastic bags was introduced. The ban helped to take over 9 billion plastic bags out of circulation.

The government has recently announced a range of measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste including a ban on microbeads and proposals to extend the 5p plastic bag charge and explore plastic free aisles in supermarkets.

Earlier this year the government announced its intention to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, plans for a deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates of drinks bottles and cans, and launched a call for evidence on using the tax system or charges to address single-use plastic waste.