Supermarket plastic bag sales drop by 98% since 5p charge

Single-use plastic bag sales across major UK supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons have dropped by more than 98% since the introduction of plastic bag charges in 2014.

New figures from Defra have revealed the average person now buys just two single-use plastic carrier bags a year, down from around 140 a year before the charge was introduced.

Between them, the main UK supermarkets have sold 133 million single-use plastic bags for 2022/23, down from 197 million in 2021/22. This is a major drop since 2014, when 7.6 billion plastic bags were sold.

The 5p charge was first introduced in UK supermarkets in 2015 before being raised to 10p and extended across all businesses in 2021.

“Our charge has helped to stop billions of single-use carrier bags littering our neighbourhoods or heading to landfill while ensuring millions of pounds go to good causes,” said environment minister Rebecca Pow.

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“We are determined to do more to tackle plastic pollution at source, with further bans on single-use products starting in October and our deposit return scheme will cut litter and drive up recycling rates,” she continued.

“We continue to encourage all relevant retailers to play their part in further reducing the use of single-use carrier bags.”

British Retail Consortium director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Retailers have worked closely with the government over the single-use bag charges to ensure it has been an industry-wide success – with 98% fewer bags used across the biggest grocery retailers.

“It has also generated millions in funds that retailers have donated to a variety of good causes.”

The government is also introducing further measures to tackle plastic pollution and litter via the Environment Act, including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers as well as plans for simpler recycling collections across England.

The news also comes ahead of a UK ban on single-use plastics including cutlery, balloon sticks and food containers, set to begin in October 2023.

Materials and packagingNewsRetail

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