Resource management firm Veolia has said the number of carrier bags coming through its facilities has dropped from 170 million to 40 million, since the 5p charge came into practice in England a year ago.
Despite the drop in volume of more than three-quarters in the last 12 months, the firm is turning the carrier bags into new refuse sacks.
Veolia UK and Ireland technical director Richard Kirkman, said: “In just 365 days we've seen a huge drop in carrier bags coming through our facilities. In fact, plastic bags collected by Veolia have reduced from an estimated 170 million to 40 million, since the 5p charge came into practice last October – that's a huge 75% reduction. This is a great achievement and something we, as a nation, should be very proud of.”
In August, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs forecast that the drop in usage would be more than 85% following the introduction of the 5p charge.
According to early data, more than seven billion carrier bags were issued by seven main retailers in 2014, falling to just over half a billion in the first six months of the 5p charge.
Through Veolia's Bag2Bag scheme, launched in Southwark, the firm is able to recycle the low density film - the main material in single use bags - back into single use refuse sacks that are then distributed back to Southwark residents.
Kirkman added: “This is a great illustration of the shared contribution Veolia and the residents of Southwark make to the circular economy. We're hoping to roll it out to other local authorities because if this was translated across the country we would save about 6.2 billion bags. This is equal to 15,000 tonnes of material and 15,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, helping out in the battle against climate change.
“Equally important as the reduction in carrier bags itself, is the behavioural change it represents. The 75% drop in carrier bags shows many people are not only thinking more environmentally friendly but acting more environmentally friendly too. And when you walk down the street carrier bag litter has visibly reduced. All of this has been achieved in a very short space of time so we just need to keep up the momentum so we see further reductions in single use carrier bags on the second anniversary.”
Kirkman also expanded upon Veolia's purchase of the old Closed Loop factory in East London, announced in July: “Our new facility in Dagenham is able to regenerate all the plastic milk bottles in London into food grade pellets to make new bottles. This is a huge step in the right direction and will double the UK's recovery capabilities of high density plastic recycling. By reusing plastic, Veolia is closing the loop on a valuable resource and makes it possible to avoid pollution that is difficult to eliminate.”