The supermarket plastic bag is one of the scourges of our time – they can be seen everywhere (literally) but are a strangely British issue. On the continent they were consigned to the pay to use corner of the checkout many years ago – consequently their use has fallen to almost zero over the channel.
Supermarkets in Wales have reported reductions of up to 96% in the use of single-use plastic bags following the introduction of the 5p charge last October. The charge, which was introduced to cut waste, has also seen a big rise in the number of people using their own bags in shops and a surge in support for the scheme. The scheme covers all single-use bags, including paper ones.
Figures compiled by the British Retail Consortium show bag use at 13 retailers (including Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s) saw reductions of 70-96% for food retail, and 68-75% for fashion.
The number of Welsh people always taking their own bags to the supermarket rose from 42% before the charge to 64% after, according to a survey of 1,000 people by the Welsh government. The survey also showed support for the charge had risen since its introduction, with the number “strongly supporting” it rising from 35% before to 49% after.
Ireland introduced a plastic bag tax in 2002, Northern Ireland is set to bring in a 5p charge in 2013 and last month Scotland opened a consultation on a proposed minimum charge of 5p which, if adopted, would leave England as the only country in the UK without one.
Last week, new figures showed Welsh households recycle almost half their waste – putting the country well ahead of England, where the average recycling rate is around 40%.
Isn’t it time that we adopted this approach as well? Or are we just interested in longer opening hours?