Plastic bag usage drops by 86% since 2015 charge

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Plastic bag sales in England’s supermarkets have dropped by 86% since the government introduced a 5p plastic bag charge in 2015.

New figures released today (July 30) show that shoppers in England’s seven biggest supermarkets bought nearly a quarter fewer plastic bags last year compared to 2016/17 - a decrease of nearly 300 million bags.

Commenting on the results, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “These figures demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment by making simple changes to our daily routines.

“We want businesses to continue to look at what they can do to help improve our environment to leave it in a better state than we found it.”

Government figures also revealed that the sale of 5p plastic bags in 2017/18 contributed nearly £60m toward charities and other good causes.

Currently, only large retailers, with 250 or more full-time employees, are required to charge a minimum of 5p for every single-use plastic bag sold in England. Smaller retailers are not legally required to charge for bags but many c-stores have done so voluntarily.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “About half of independent convenience stores are already charging for single-use plastic bags on a voluntary basis. The funds generated by charging for these plastic bags enable retailers to support local causes whilst helping to reduce the number of plastic bags given out.”

Earlier this year, the UK government announced plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

It has also launched a call for evidence on the use of the tax system to address single-use plastic waste and is set to consult on the creation of a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans. 

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