The Waste & Resources Action Programme said retailers have exceeded the voluntary target to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags by 25% by the end of 2008. This is measured by the reduction in the amount of carrier bags issued and the amount of virgin plastic used.
According to WRAP, since 2006 retailers have delivered a 40% reduction in the environmental impact of carrier bags. This has been achieved through reducing the number of carrier bags issued by 26%, increasing recycled content use and reducing carrier bag weight.
WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin said this showed we are moving away from using bags once to re-using bags often.
Over the past two years WRAP has been monitoring retailer carrier bag initiatives such as reward schemes, bag for life promotions and bag charging. Such initiatives have resulted in a 23,000 tonne reduction in the weight of carrier bags issued and a reduction in the total number of bags in circulation from 13.4 billion in 2006 to 9.9 billion in 2008.
WRAP director of retail Dr Richard Swannell said it was likely to be a combination of such initiatives that generated the results but to maintain momentum to achieve Mays 50% reduction target agreed by the Government and British Retail Consortium was challenging.
He added: This is all about moving away from using bags once and getting into the habit of using them until the end of their lives.
Sainsburys said it reduced the environmental impact of its carrier bags by 63 per cent, through size reduction, increasing recycled content and encouraging reuse. Environment manager Alison Austin said: This success has come about as a result of our remind, reward, remove strategy whereby customers are reminded to reuse carrier bags when they shop, rewarded with Nectar points for each bag they reuse and finally we removed plastic bags from checkouts last year.