Plastic bag use in Wales down 71% since 5p charge

The number of single-use carrier bags (SUCBs) has fallen by over 70% in Wales since a 5p charge was introduced, a new report has found, just weeks before the scheme is launched in England.

The report, commissioned by the Welsh Government, reveals that use of bags of all types had fallen 57%, largely due to a rise in ‘bags for life’. Public support for the charges has also grown to just under 75% in 2014, up from 61% when the charges were first introduced in 2011.

Wales Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant said: “Wales was the first country in the UK to introduce a SUCB charge in order to reduce consumption and the associated environmental impacts. We wanted the people of Wales to get into the habit of reusing their bags when shopping.

“I am pleased that almost four years on from the introduction of the charge in Wales consumer habits appear to be changing which is having a positive knock on effect on the environment as well as raising a significant amount of money for good causes.”

The carrier bag charge was introduced to reduce the amount of SUCBs sent to landfill. Currently, 86% end up in landfill. As well as reducing that percentage, the charge has also induced other benefits. Of the 504 retailers who took part in the Welsh report, 87% stated either a ‘positive or neutral impact’ on their company. The majority of businesses also donated the 5p charges to various charities raising an estimated £17m in the process.

Single Use Carrier Bag Charge Wales Review

England to follow

Scotland introduced the same charge in October last year, and has since seen bag use fall by 80%. A similar scheme in Northern Ireland has seen annual drops of 71% and 45% of single use carrier bags since the launch in 2013.

England adopts the 5p carrier bag charge on 5 October. The scheme arrives in wake of WRAP’s announcement that England’s carrier bag use has increased by 20% since 2010.

In February last year, another study from WRAP found that around 60% of the English public would support the idea of a 5p charge on SUCBs. Last month, a seperate YouGov poll believed that more should be done to make carrier bags both recyclable and biodegradable. Sixty five per cent of people who took the poll felt that biodegradable bags should be exempt from any 5p charges.

Matt Mace

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