Supermarket shopping

Last month WRAP published figures that showed that a total of 6.4 billion single-use carrier bags were used by supermarket customers across the UK in 2010.

The good news is that this figure equates to a 40% reduction compared with the number of single-use bags used back in 2006 when data was first collected on customer's shopping habits.  

The bad news is that this figure represents a 5% increase compared to the total number of single-use bags used in 2009/2010.

The million dollar question is - are the latest figures a blip or the start of an upward trend? It's probably too early to say but arguably there is a more important story buried behind the headline figures.

Back in 2008, the UK Governments, the British Retail Consortium and leading supermarkets agreed to a voluntary approach to cut the number of single-use bags given to customers by 50% by spring 2009.

The drive to cut bag usage had impressive results. In May 2009, when the formal agreement came to an end, WRAP reported that retailers had cut the number of single-use bags by 48%.

Clearly the strategy worked but rather than build on this good work, it now looks like the positive trend to cut single-bag usage is moving into reverse. WRAP reports that there is no current sector target for carrier bag usage. Whether this explains why the latest figures have shown a 5% increase is open to debate.

As an observer, however, what it tells me is that consumers are unlikely to give up their single-use carrier bags without a gentle nudge.

Nick Warburton

Topics: edie
Tags: Data | retail | WRAP
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