Sales of single-use plastic bags by England’s biggest retailers are continuing to plummet since the government began charging 5p for them in 2015, new figures have shown.
Data published by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) today showed that England’s seven main retailers sold 549 million of the bags in 2018/19 – 490 million fewer than the previous year, and a drop of almost 50%.
The data shows how the 5p charge has successfully deterred people from buying the bags in England, as the average person now buys just 10 bags a year.
This is over a 90% reduction on the average of 140 bags bought per person in 2014, the year before the charge was introduced.
The government has welcomed the figures, saying they demonstrate how the UK is achieving its aims of reducing its contribution to plastic waste.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: ‘Our comprehensive action to slash plastic waste and leave our environment in a better state continues to deliver results, with our 5p charge reducing plastic bag sales by 90% in the big supermarkets.
‘No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife. Today’s figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society.’
According to the government’s figures, the total sales of single-use carrier bags reported by retailers in 2018/19 fell to 1.1 billion, a 37% drop on the 1.7 billion reported the previous year.
Since the charge was introduced on 5 October 2015, 5p plastic bag sales have contributed around £169m towards charities and good causes from donations made by retailers.
In 2018/19 the 5p bag charge raised at least £22.8m for good causes, with the 121 retailers who reported this data donating an average of 3.6p per bag.
The UK’s government is making significant effort to crack down on plastic waste, especially marine litter which ruins seas and threatens wildlife.
The country introduced a ban on plastic microbeads last year and plans to ban the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds starting from April 2020.
The government is currently consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to encourage people to recycle plastic drinks bottles and cans.
It also intends to introduce a tax on plastic packaging made of less than 30% recycled content from 2022.
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