Supermarket plastic bag use falls 98% since introduction of 5p charge

The use of single-use supermarket plastic bags has plummeted 98% since retailers began charging for them in 2015.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that the annual distribution of plastic carrier bags by seven of the UK’s leading supermarkets fell from 7.6bn in 2014 to 133m in 2022.

It said the average person in England now buys just two single-use bags a year from the leading retailers, The Guardian reported.

English supermarkets first introduced a charge of 5p per carrier bag in 2015, which has since increased to 10p and rolled out across all businesses.

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Wales first introduced a 5p charge in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in 2013, which has since upped the price to 25p and Scotland in 2014, which now charges 10p per single-use carrier bag.

Greenpeace UK plastic campaign head, Nina Schrank, told the publication: “The success of the plastic bag charge shows that when the government takes real action it gets results and the public gets on board.

“It’s ironic then for these figures to come out just as ministers are busy delaying vital plans to tackle the scourge of single-use plastic.”

Last month, Defra delayed its extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme amid warnings from the grocery industry that it will drive up food prices by a significant margin.

The policies – which were first announced in 2018 by Michael Gove – were previously meant to be introduced in April 2024, however, the government department now claims that plans will not be introduced until at least October 2025.



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