News | Published August 02 2019

Plastic bag sales in England halve in one year

England’s largest supermarkets have halved plastic bag sales in the last year, according to new data.

Government analysis found that Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, the Co-op, Tesco and Waitrose sold 549 million single-use plastic bags in 2018/19.

This is down from one billion in the previous year.

The number of plastic shopping bags being used is reportedly down 90 per cent since the government introduced a 5p charge to tackle pollution.

The new research also revealed that the average person now buys ten plastic bags a year, down from 140 when they were free.

The new environment secretary Theresa Villiers said the figures showed the country was “calling time on being a throwaway society”.

“No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife,” she said.

“Today’s figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society.”

In England, retailers with more than 250 employees have to charge customers for the use of plastic bags. This is in contrast with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales where there is a minimum charge of 5p for all retailers.

While fewer plastic bags have been used in recent years, some have suggested that the accelerated trend could be due to greater awareness about pollution.

Levies designed to influence behaviour have gained traction in recent years, with the sugar tax being a recent example, but some inside government have criticised these measures, labelling them "sin taxes".

Liz Truss, the minister in charge of international trade, once famously labelled Michael Gove’s attempted crackdown on plastics as "hot air" and said it should not be down to the government to tell people how to live their lives.

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Authored by

Joshua Sandiford
Junior Political Editor
August 02 2019

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