The UK has announced its plastic bag use has dropped 95% in the space of five years since the introduction of a 5-pence charge for plastic bags at major supermarket retailers.
Year-on-year, the UK reduced its plastic bag use by 59%, amounting to a 95% drop in the five-years since the 5-pence charge was introduced in 2015.
The data comes from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who says that on average, citizens are buying four plastic bags per year from a supermarket, compared to 10 bags in 2019, and a staggering 140 bags per year in 2014, the year before the charge was implemented.
The UK’s major supermarket retailers, – Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s Co-operative Group, Tesco, Waitrose and Asda – sold 226 million plastic bags in the past 12-months, which is 322 million less than over a 12-month period spanning 2018-19.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary has issued a statement saying that “it is encouraging to see in such a short space of time the huge difference our plastic carrier bag charge has had in reducing the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives.”
He continued to explain that “we have all seen first-hand the devastating impact that plastic bags have on the environment, littering our beautiful countryside and threatening the world’s marine life. I am committed to driving this progress further and I hope this continues to inspire similar action across the globe.”
In 2015 when the charge was introduced, the UK was consuming more than 7.6 billion plastic bags each year, equal to 61,000 tonnes of plastic waste entering landfills.
The charge was implemented in organisations that employ more than 250 people, with the government floating the idea of extending this to all businesses regardless of their size, and increasing the charge to 10-pence.
Sam Chetan Welsh of Greenpeace has told The Guardian that “sales of plastic carrier bags are down by 322 million, which is positive and sounds a lot, but sales of ‘bags for life’ rose to 1.5 billion in 2018. And bags for life contain more plastic than carrier bags do.”
“To deter people from using bags for life like throwaways, the government should increase the cost of bags for life, which successfully led to decreased sales in the Republic of Ireland, or ideally should ban them.”
Welsh continued to explain that “this is just the start.”
“With UK supermarkets using 900,000 tonnes of plastic, we urgently need reductions in plastic packaging across every aisle of the supermarket, as well as the checkout. Whilst today’s figures are a step in the right direction, the government shouldn’t congratulate itself too much until this hard work is done.”
According to Rebecca Smithers’ report, “despite the progress, research published last week fount hat plastic waste flowing into the world’s oceans was likely to nearly treble in volume in the next 20 years, while efforts to stem the tide have so far made barely a dent in the amount of waste in the oceans.”