Retailers see 97% fall in plastic bag use since 2015, data reveals

Plastic bag usage has dopped by 97% since a 5p charge was first introduced in 2015, figures by data platform and charity, Wrap reveal.

In 2014, prior to charges implemented, 7.6 billion single-use carrier bags were used, a significant drop from 2021 to 2022 when 197 million were sold by the UK’s main retailers.

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.

According to data by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), for the average consumer, three plastic bags were bought from the UK’s main retailers this year, down from 24 in 2016.

Although Waitrose saw an increase of 13 million plastic bags used this year and Morrisons with 4 million, Tesco was the retailer with the largest decline at 41 million less uses.

READ MORE: Tesco shoppers have mixed reaction to 50% price increase for plastic bags

“Our plastic bag charge has ended the sale of billons of single-use bags, protecting our landscapes and ensuring millions of pounds is redistributed to worthy causes,” environment minister, Steve Double said.

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

Wrap resource management sector specialist, Adam Herriot added: “Flexibles remain 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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