ENGLAND – The charge for single-use plastic carrier bags has cut usage in England by 97% since 2015 according to data shared by DEFRA.

England’s main retailers – Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose – sold 197 million bags from the year 2021 to 2022.

This is down from 7.64 billion in 2014, before the charges were introduced, according to figures from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) charity.

The charge was first introduced in large retailers in 2015 and requires all businesses to charge customers a minimum of £10 for single-use plastic carrier bags. This was increased from £5 in May 2021.

The number of plastic bags sold across all retailers since 2021 currently sits at 496 million, a 20% drop in two years with 627 million recorded from 2019 to 2020.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government suspended plastic bag fees across online deliveries, however, on 21 May 2021 in-store prices doubled to 10p, extended to all businesses in a bid to reduce the amount sold.

Environment Minister Steve Double said: “Our plastic bag charge has ended the sale of billions of single-use bags, protecting our landscapes and ensuring millions of pounds are redistributed to worthy causes.

“There is much more to do to tackle the problem of plastic waste. That is why we are building on our single-use plastic ban and introducing the deposit return scheme for bottles to fight back against littering and drive up recycling rates.”

According to data published by the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the average person in England now buys around three single-use carrier bags each year from the main supermarkets, down from around 140 in 2014.

Large retailers are now required by law to report the number of single-use carrier bags sold under the charge.

Between 2021 and 2022, 42% of retailers reported how they chose to donate proceeds from the charge, with £10 million going to good causes.

Wrap Resource Management Sector Specialist, Adam Herriot added: “Flexibles remains one of the most common plastics in our bins, but just like pots tubs and trays we’re now at a point where the tide is turning on flexible plastics.

“Today, nearly 5,000 stores nationwide have front-of-store collections where people can drop off their unusable bags once they reach their end of life.

“So not only do we have less single-use shopping bags to worry about, we have somewhere convenient to put them when we go shopping to make sure they are recycled.”

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