Plastic bag sales fall 86% in England following 5p charge

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Study reveals over 9 billion plastic bags have been taken out of circulation since the introduction of the 5pm charge on plastic bags

Plastic bag sales in England’s leading supermarkets have dropped by 86% since the UK government introduced its 5p plastic bag charge in 2015.

New figures published by the government reveal that sales of plastic bags in the country’s ‘big seven’ supermarkets fell by nearly 25% compared to the previous year, amounting to a decrease of 300 million bags.

“This is equivalent to just 19 bags per person [per year] in England, compared to 140 bags since the government introduced a 5p charge in 2015,” said a statement by the department for environment, food & rural affairs (DEFRA) on 27 July.

“These figures demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment by making simple changes to our daily routines,” said environment secretary Michael Gove, welcoming the figures.

Scientists in the UK government claim that plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed. This, they claim, can lead to the annual death of one million birds and 100,000 sea mammals who eat or get tangled in plastic waste.

A recent study by the government department centre for environment, fisheries and aquaculture science (Cefas) has revealed over 9 billion plastic bags have been taken out of circulation since the introduction of the 5pm charge on plastic bags.

The study claims that through the initiative, plastic bag marine litter in the UK has fallen by an estimated 50% compared to the 2010 baseline.

“Since efforts from across Europe came into effect, including the UK’s 5p charge, we have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the UK as compared to 2010,” said Thomas Maes, marine litter scientist at Cefas.

The UK has launched a serious campaign against disposable plastics, with a 25-year plan to eliminate “all avoidable” plastic waste.

Earlier this year, the country announced plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and the introduction of a deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates for drinks bottles and cans. 

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