New figures show sales of single-use bags by England's seven biggest retailers continued to fall in 2018/19, with uptake down 90% since introduction of 5p charge in 2015.
According to the report from DEFRA, Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose sold 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags in 2018/19 (549 million) – a drop of almost half on the previous year.
The average person in England now buys just 10 bags a year from the main supermarket retailers, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the charge was introduced. In 2017 Tesco scrapped single-use plastic bags in favour of a new 10p 'bag for life' made from 94% recycled plastic. Meanwhile, other retailers in the UK have taken steps to switch from plastic altogether and offer a recycled paper option - a move that builders merchant Covers announced in May this year.
Welcoming today’s figures, 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.”
The total single-use carrier bag sales reported by all large retailers in 2018/2019 fell 37% to 1.11billion compared with the previous year.
Government scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is tackled. One million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.
The new figures reveal 5p plastic bag sales have also contributed around £169million toward charities and other good causes since the charge was introduced on October 5, 2015, with more than £22million raised in 2018/19 alone.
The UK Government has committed to be a global leader in cracking down on plastic waste and has recently announced a range of measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, including a ban on microbeads, consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of drinks bottles and cans, and recently confirming a ban on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in April 2020.
The Government will also introduce a new tax on plastic packaging that does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022, subject to consultation, to encourage greater use of recycled plastic to tackle the problem of plastic waste and protect our environment.