Morrisons to remove all plastic bags for life from UK stores

Supermarket retailer Morrisons is removing all plastic versions of its "bags for life" from stores nationwide, in favour of paper and other reusable options, in a move that will save 3,200 tonnes of plastic each year.

The retailer claims that removing every plastic bag from stores nationwide will save 3,200 tonnes of plastic each year

The retailer claims that removing every plastic bag from stores nationwide will save 3,200 tonnes of plastic each year

Morrisons is phasing out plastic bags for life, starting in Scotland this month. Removals across England and Wales will commence over the next 12 months. The retailer claims that almost 100 million plastic bags will be removed as a result.

Shoppers will instead be able to purchase water and tear-resistant paper bags that can hold up to 16kg, costing 30p. Other reusable options include string, jute, cotton and reusable woven bags, priced between 75p and £2.50.

Morrisons’ chief executive David Potts said: “We have been listening hard to our customers over the past year and we know that they are passionate about doing their bit to keep plastics out of the environment. Removing all of the plastic bags from our supermarkets is a significant milestone in our sustainability programme.”

The retailer claims that removing every plastic bag from stores nationwide will save 3,200 tonnes of plastic each year. A life cycle assessment carried out by The University of Sheffield found that the paper bag replacements that a lower carbon footprint than the plastics versions.

The announcement builds on Morrisons’ decision to remove single-use plastic bags back in 2017 and is based on positive feedback from consumer-facing trials last year. Since 2017, the company has removed and made recyclable more than 1,000 tonnes of plastic, putting it on course to reach a target to reduce plastics usage by 50% by 2025. It falls under its overarching commitment to ensure that 100% of the plastics packaging on its own-brand projects is recyclable.

Customers ordering from Morrisons online will also receive their deliveries without plastic bags.

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said: "We applaud Morrisons for biting the bullet and finally banning plastic bags. We have been fooling ourselves for years that the UK bag tax has worked but the real numbers don’t lie - more plastic is being used for those 'bags for life' than we ever used before.

"Over 60 countries have banned the bag. As we are all united by one ocean, we need global action on the scourge of plastic. We urgently need a global treaty on plastics for international policy and strong action from our supermarkets on a local level. It starts with the bag. Let more supermarkets please follow Morrisons's excellent lead."

The UK government has repeatedly claimed that its decision to introduce a 10p charge for ‘bags for life’ and mandate large retailers to remove single-use bags has reduced plastics littering and pollution. According to one study for the journal Science of the Total Environment, 30% less plastic bags were found on seabeds around Europe in 2018 than in 2010, largely due to new legislation in Ireland and Denmark as well as the UK.

However, Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency recorded a 26% surge in ‘bags for life’ sales between 2017 and 2019, arguing that the bags were increasing the plastics waste footprint of supermarkets.

Matt Mace



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