Plastic bag sales fall 86%

The number of plastic bags sold by England’s seven largest supermarkets has fallen by 86% since a 5p charge was introduced back in 2015, new government figures show.


The data also reveals that customers bought nearly a quarter fewer bags in 2017/18 compared to the previous year, signifying a decline of almost 300 million plastic bags.

This is equivalent to just 19 bags per person compared to 140 since the 5p charge was introduced, marking significant progress for the government as it attempts to cut down on plastic waste.

Environment secretary, Michael Gove, said: “These figures demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment by making simple changes to our daily routines.

“We want businesses to continue to look at what they can do to help improve our environment to leave it in a better state than we found it.

“It is only by working together we will reverse the rising tide of plastic waste finding its way into our rivers, seas and oceans and the catastrophic impact this is having on our marine environment.”

Government scientists believe ocean plastic is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed – with one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals dying every year as a result.

However, a recent study by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) found a 50% reduction in plastic bag marine litter since the 5p charge was introduced three years ago.

This comes after the government announced a range of measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, including plans for a deposit return scheme and a plastic straw ban.

The latest figures also show that money generated from the 5p charge on plastic bag sales for 2017/18 contributed nearly £60m toward charities and other good causes.

Cefas marine litter scientist, Thomas Maes, said: “We have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the UK as compared to 2010.

“These figures show that by working together we can tackle the marine litter problem by reducing, reusing and recycling.” 


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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