The survey of more than 2100 supermarket-goers, conducted by, found that 70% of shoppers would rather discard their reusable bags than ask for a new one, with 42% claiming to have thrown away a bag for life after just one use. spokesperson Mark Hall said: “We were given the same reasons for this alarming statistic time and time again and it’s all about the ‘British’ way of doing things – from apathy to worrying that asking for a freebie isn’t quite the ‘done’ thing.

“While we think we’re good as a nation at recycling, we’re still mid-table compared to our European neighbours. We need to change our attitude to our shopping to cut down on needless waste.”

‘Couldn’t be bothered’

Reasons given for not returning bags for life to claim a free replacement included ‘I couldn’t be bothered’, ‘we didn’t want to create a fuss over a few pence’ and ‘we wouldn’t know who to ask for a new one’.

Although bags for life cost just a few pence and come with the guarantee of a free replacement, most shoppers simply discard the used bag as soon as it shows signs of wear. As many as 90% of all single-use and reusable shopping bags handed out at British supermarkets are thrown away after one use.

Earlier this week, edie reported that the number of single-use plastic bags handed out to shoppers by UK supermarkets has risen for the fourth year running.

According to new figures for WRAP, a total of 8.3 billion single-use carrier bags were issued in the UK in 2013; representing an increase of 3.2% compared with 2012, when 8.1 billion bags were used.

Edie timeline: Carrier bag usage

Motivating shops and shoppers to take plastic bag reuse and recycling seriously has been in the headlines throughout the year, so here is edie’s year of the plastic bag so far: 

– 15 July: Plastic bag use on the up -WRAP found that plastic bag use had increased on 2012 levels by 3.2%, totalling 8.3bn single-use bags and a total of 8.8bn carrier bags issued by supermarkets

– 1 July: Zero Waste Scotland launches Carrier Bag Commitment – Scottish retailers plan to donate 5p charge from carrier bags to charitable causes

– 17 June: MPs slam overcomplicated carrier bag tax – Government proposals for the carrier bag charge criticised by Environmental Audit Committee

– 4 June: Plastic bag tax announced in Queen’s speech – the Government announces commitment to reduce single-use plastic bag consumption with a 5p levy to be introduced in England

– 29 May: Scotland approves carrier bag charge – Scottish Parliament approves new regulations to introduce carrier bag charge in October

– 15 January: Co-op issues compostable carrier bags – The Co-operative rolled out carrier bags which can be re-used as household compost bags for food waste

Matt Field

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