According to government figures the amount of plastic bags used a month per person dropped from 11 in 2002 to 7.2 in 2009. However, this increased in 2010 to 7.7 bags per person a month.
Campaigners for a plastic bag levy used the Republic of Ireland as an example of how it could be successfully implemented. Since the introduction of a charge in 2002, plastic bag use has plummeted from 27 a month per person to two per person in 2009.
“Ireland’s shoppers are enjoying freedom from the endless unnecessary plastic bags, as these figures show,” said Friends of the Earth spokesman Julian Kirby. “A standard charge in England would help save resources and cut climate-changing gases.”
Despite no legislation currently existing in England, several independent retailers have set up voluntary schemes to cut the amount of plastic bag use.
Chris Mitchener of Swan Street Stores, Hampshire, charges his customers 10p a bag which goes to charity. In 2008, Michelle Gravelle of Budgens, Hertfordshire, moved the single-use bags under the counter and offered reusable bags for 10p, cutting the amount of bags handed out by 400,000 in the space of less than a year. Since then she has started charging 2p for a plastic bag.
Wales has recently passed legislation to introduce a 5p levy on all plastic bags which will come into effect this May, while Northern Ireland has proposed a 15p charge for bags that is expected to raise £4m a year for the economy.