Sales of plastic bags by the seven biggest retailers in England have fallen by 90% since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015, new figures released by the UK government have shown.
The government release did not give comparative figures for total plastic bag sales since 2015 but said the average person in England now buys just 10 bags a year from the main supermarket retailers, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the charge was introduced.
Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose sold 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags in 2018/19 (549 million) – a drop of almost half on the previous year, said the government statement 31 July.
The total single-use carrier bag sales reported by all large retailers fell 37% to 1.11 billion compared with the previous year.
The UK introduced a 5p plastic bag charge in England in October 2015 as part of a nationwide scheme to crack down on plastic waste.
In August last year, the government said it was planning to extend the single-use plastic bag charge to all retailers and increase the minimum charge to at least 10p.
According to the department for environment, food & rural affairs (DEFRA) small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which has thus far been exempt from the plastic bag charge, supply an estimated 3.4 billion single-use plastic bags per year.
Trade bodies representing 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5p charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England's estimated 220,000 SMEs.
The consultation will also explore the possibility of potentially doubling the 5p minimum charge to encourage further behaviour change.