Shops cut down on carrier bags

High street shops and super markets have hit voluntary targets to cut down on the amount of waste being produced by handing out free plastic bags.

Retailers have almost halved waste in this area since 2006 through a combination of a reduction of the total number of bags being given to shoppers, increasing the amount of recycled material used in the bags and using thinner plastics.

Major high street chains and supermarkets had signed up to a voluntary target of cutting the environmental impact of their bags by 25% by the end of 2008.

According to the government-funded Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP) this level of cuts that have been achieved would not have been reached without active interest on the part of shoppers themselves, who have got behind corporate efforts.

Dr Liz Goodwin, chief executive of the organisation, said: “Consumers deserve congratulations for these results as they clearly show we are moving away from using bags once to re-using bags often.

“They are also a credit to retailers who have worked hard to find innovative ways of helping us re-use our bags.”

The retailers’ success in meeting these self-imposed targets is unlikely to derail Welsh efforts to do away with free, single-use plastic bags in the country’s shops – an initiative reported by edie in February.

The Welsh Assembly’s Environment Minister Jane Davidson said: “While I warmly welcome the reduction and congratulate the retailers on this achievement the fact remains that single-use carrier bags are not good for the environment.

“After reaching this milestone I now call on all retailers in Wales to reduce their use of sole trip plastic bags and to work with us on introducing legislation to charge for carrier bags to ensure that the money raised will go towards supporting environmental projects.

“The current voluntary agreement does not cover all retailers and still leaves 50% of them using one trip plastic bags.

“I recognise we need to give the retail sector a chance to demonstrate what they can do voluntarily, but I am willing to use all the powers at our disposal.”

Sam Bond

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