More than 7 billion plastic bags have been prevented from going to waste thanks to the single-use carrier bag charge, new figures announced by Environment Minister Rebecca Pow on Monday have shown.
A 5p charge was first introduced in supermarkets in 2015. Since then, usage at the main retailers – Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose – has dropped by more than 98 per cent.
The average person in England now buys just two single-use carrier bags a year from these businesses, compared with around 140 in 2014 before the charge was introduced.
The number of single-use carrier bags reported as sold by the main retailers was 133 million in 2022-23, down from 197 million in 2021-22, representing a reduction of 33 per cent. This is a huge drop from the 7.6 billion used in 2014.
In 2021, the charge was increased to 10p and extended to all businesses. This has helped bring the number of bags used down by more than 35 per cent from 627 million in 2019-20 to 406 million in 2022-23, Defra noted.
Meanwhile, retailers have voluntarily donated more than £206 million from the proceeds to good causes in education, arts, heritage, sports, environment, health and charity or volunteering sectors since the charge’s introduction.
“Our charge has helped to stop billions of single-use carrier bags littering our neighbourhoods or heading to landfill while ensuring millions of pounds go to good causes,” Pow said.
“We are determined to do more to tackle plastic pollution at source, with further bans on single-use products starting in October and our deposit return scheme will cut litter and drive up recycling rates. We continue to encourage all relevant retailers to play their part in further reducing the use of single-use carrier bags.”
Through the Environment Act, the government is bringing in further measures to tackle plastic pollution and litter. This includes introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and plans for simpler recycling collections for every household and business in England.
A range of polluting single-use plastics will be banned in England from 1 October 2023. The restrictions will include single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers.