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?
We are all guilty of using too many bags from the supermarkets when we do our shopping. Some reduction has been managed in England by the bags for life system – but it is only a drop in the ocean. However in Wales a charge on bags was levied last year and the first results of its effect are in – and its good news!
Supermarkets in Wales are reporting a reduction in the use of ‘single use bags’ of up to 90%.
It is six months since a minimum 5p charge per bag was introduced, Sainsbury’s saw a 90% fall, the Co-op reported 86% and Morrison’s 60%.
In 2009, shoppers in Wales took home an estimated 350m carrier bags from the major supermarkets. The new figures suggest hundreds of millions fewer single use carrier bags could be handed out this year in supermarkets alone.
Supermarkets report that the introduction of the 5p charge has gone smoothly across all stores and did not result in the ‘anarchy’ that was predicted by some. This was probably due to strong publicity in the months prior to the change, but with the holiday season approaching and lots of English visiting is it not a good opportunity to educate us English as well?
Tesco in England reports that since 2006 it has reduced bag use by over 50% through clubcard loyalty incentives for customers bringing their own carriers – not a bad result. But in Wales this has risen to over 90% with the levy. This just goes to show that sometimes a big stick is required to get people to act!
So how about it? Time to act?