The single-use carrier bag charge introduced in England for major supermarkets in 2015 has proven a remarkable success. New research finds the charge is supported overwhelmingly by the public – with 95% of people in England acknowledging the wide-ranging benefits to the environment so far.
According to the latest figures, the average person in England now buys just four single-use carrier bags a year from the main supermarkets, compared with 140 in 2014. This equates to a 95% cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets
The charge is now being increased from 5p to 10 and extended to all businesses in England to help further drive down sales. By extending the charge to all retailers, it is expected that the use of single-use carrier bags will decrease by 70-80% in small and medium-sized businesses.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow is urging all retailers of all sizes to make sure they are ready for the changes, ‘as we work together to build back greener and strengthen our world-leading action to combat the scourge of plastic waste’.
A new report published 7 May by WRAP found a shift in attitude towards plastic bags since the charge was first brought in. A survey of over 2,000 adults in England revealed the close to seven in ten (69%) who were either ‘strongly’ or ‘slightly’ in favour of the charge when it was first introduced, has now risen to 73%. The results also showed that customers are changing their habits and more often using long-life bags made from more sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials. Of those surveyed, two in three (67%) said they used a ‘bag-for-life’ - either fabric or more durable plastic - to take their shopping home for a large food shop in store, with only 14% using a single-use carrier bag. And only one in four (26%) purchase bags from the till when doing food shops – including 4% who say they do this ‘always’. This represents a significant fall since 2014 before the charge was introduced, when over twice as many (57%) reported taking plastic carrier bags from the till. Meanwhile, over half (54%) say they take less bags from the till.
Almost half (49%) of 18-34 year-olds say they purchase carrier bags at the till at least sometimes, compared to just over one in ten (11%) of those aged 55+.
Next to the bag charge, other steps taken by the Government to combat plastic waste entering the environment include a ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England. A plastic packaging tax will be introduced from April 2022 for products which do not have at least 30% recycled content, while the Government is currently consulting on landmark reforms that will introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging.