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Plastic bag usage down despite increase from some supermarkets

plastic bag

The charge at retailers on single-use plastic bags has led to a 17% reduction in usage during the past year, but Asda and Sainsbury’s have seen increases of 16% and 4%, respectively.

Figures release by Defra revealed that, of the seven biggest supermarket chains in the UK, Tesco was responsible for the largest reduction, from 637 million bags in 2016-17 to 333 million bags in 2017-18.

The company’s success was explained by its decision to replace single-use plastic bags with bags for life in 2017.

Morrisons and the Co-op both saw a 4% decrease. By contrast, Asda reported 27.2 million more sales and Sainsbury’s 2.2 million more.

Overall plastic bag sales from 249 retailers that reported in 2017-18 decreased from 2.12 billion to 1.75 billion.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “These figures demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment by making simple changes to our daily routines. We want businesses to continue to look at what they can do to help improve our environment to leave it in a better state than we found it.”

A report by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) found that the 5p charge on plastic bags has led to around a 50% reduction in plastic bag marine litter.

Thomas Maes, marine litter scientist at Cefas, said: “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 compared with 2010.”

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