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More carrier bags but less weight, say new WRAP figures

More supermarket customers used carrier bags last year but the total weight of bags issued decreased following a reduction in the material used to produce them, according to WRAP statistics.

In 2012, the number of single-use and re-usable bags issued reached 8.5 billion, up 1.1% in comparison to 2011, but down 32% in comparison to 2006 when reporting began.

Total weight of the carrier bags issued was 70,400 tonnes, down 2.6% in comparison to 2011 and 36% in comparison to 2006.

“So despite the overall number of bags issued increasing between 2011 and 2012, the weight has fallen, which is due to a fall in the average weight of bags,” said a statement from WRAP.

Commenting on the figures, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that the small increase in the number of carrier bags reflected changing shopping trends.

“Changing consumer habits mean that people are increasingly using ‘top-up shopping’ in addition to their larger weekly shops,” said the BRC.

This top-up shopping involved the use of smaller and lighter bags, which resulted in the quantity of bags rising and the overall weight declining, it added.

The BRC also pointed out that the increase in the number of bags “shouldn’t detract from areas where excellent progress has been made”.

Some 60% of stores now have recycling points to recycle bags and packaging, customers shopping online are offered loyalty points for choosing to have their items delivered without bags, and delivery drivers collect and recycle bags after use, noted the consortium.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, said: “Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, but the sector is still working hard to keep pace whilst helping customers to reduce their environmental impact.

“The majority of shoppers do their best to reuse bags and take as few new bags as possible, and the rapid roll-out of store recycling points and green incentives online is making this good practice easier and more widespread.”

  • The number of single use carrier bags given out in major supermarkets in Wales plummeted by 81% between 2010 and 2012, according to WRAP.

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