UK: Plastic bag use plummets over 98% following charge introduction

UK: Plastic bag use plummets over 98% following charge introduction

Business

New figures unveiled by Environment Minister Rebecca Pow reveal a remarkable success in reducing plastic bag usage, with over 7 billion harmful plastic bags eliminated from littering our streets and countryside. Since the 5p charge was implemented in supermarkets back in 2015, major retailers like Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco, and Waitrose have witnessed a staggering drop of over 98% in plastic bag consumption.

Previously, the average person in England used around 140 single-use carrier bags from these retailers in 2014 before the charge was initiated. Today, that number has reduced drastically to just two bags per person annually.

In the most recent report, the number of single-use carrier bags sold by main retailers was 133 million in 2022/23, marking a significant reduction from 197 million in 2021/2022 – an impressive 33% decrease from the staggering 7.6 billion bags used in 2014.

The charge, increased to 10p and extended to all businesses in 2021, further aided in reducing bag usage by over 35% from 627 million in 2019/20 to 406 million in 2022/23.

Moreover, retailers voluntarily donated more than £206 million to various good causes in education, arts, heritage, sports, environment, health, and charity sectors since the charge’s introduction.

This success builds upon the UK government's steadfast actions to combat plastic waste, such as banning microbeads in rinse-off personal care products in 2018 and imposing restrictions on single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton buds in 2020.

In April 2022, the government introduced a tax of over £200 per tonne on plastic packaging without at least 30% recycled plastic content. Furthermore, the Environment Act will introduce additional measures to tackle plastic pollution and litter, including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and plans for simpler recycling collections for every household and business in England.

Trash tree credit eflon
Trash tree © eflon (CC BY 2.0)

From 1st October 2023, England will ban a range of polluting single-use plastics, including plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and specific types of polystyrene cups and food containers.

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