Recent figures have shown that the use of plastic carrier bags by shoppers in England has fallen by 59% in the last year.
According to government data, since the 5p charge for single-use plastic carrier bags was introduced in October 2015, overall sales have fallen by over 95% in the main supermarkets in England.
A total off 226m bags was sold by the largest supermarkets in England last year - a staggering 322m fewer than the year before.
Data from Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) show that the average person only buys four plastic bags a year from the main retailers. This is a significant drop from 10 in 2018, and 140 in 2014.
George Eustice, environment secretary, said: “It is encouraging to see in such a short space of time the huge difference our plastic carrier bag charge has had in reducing the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives.
“We have all seen first hand the devastating impact that plastic bags have on the environment, littering our beautiful countryside and threatening the world’s marine life. I am committed to driving this progress further and I hope this continues to inspire similar action across the globe.”
The number of carrier bags being handed out by the seven biggest retailers increased by 200m in 2014. The 5p charge was then introduced in order to influence consumer behaviour and to reduce the impact of plastic bags on the environment.
Despite the progress, green campaigners warn that there is still a long way to go to reduce the use of plastic in UK supermarkets.
Greenpeace’s Sam Chetan Welsh said: “Sales of plastic carrier bags are down by 322m, which is positive and sounds a lot, but sales of ‘bags for life’ rose to 1.5bn in 2018. And bags for life contain more plastic than carrier bags do. To deter people from using bags for life like throwaways, the government should increase the cost of bags for life, which successfully led to decreased sales in the Republic of Ireland, or ideally should ban them.
“But this is just the start. With UK supermarkets using 900,000 tonnes of plastic, we urgently need reductions in plastic packaging across every aisle of the supermarket, as well as at checkout. Whilst today’s figures are a step in the right direction, the government shouldn’t congratulate itself too much until this hard work is done.”
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