Sales of plastic bags by the seven biggest retailers in the countryhave fallen by 90% since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015, new figures out today have shown.
Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose sold 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags in 2018/19 (549 million) – a drop of almost half on the previous year.
The average person now buys just 10 bags a year from the main supermarket retailers, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the charge was introduced.
Welcoming today’s figures, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "Our comprehensive action to slash plastic waste and leave our environment in a better state continues to deliver results, with our 5p charge reducing plastic bag sales by 90% in the big supermarkets.
"No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife. Today’s figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society."
The total single-use carrier bag sales reported by all large retailers in 2018/2019 fell 37% to 1.11 billion compared with the previous year.
Government scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decadeunless marine litter is tackled. One million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.
Today’s figures reveal 5p plastic bag sales have also contributed around £169 million toward charities and other good causes since the charge was introduced on 5 October 2015, with more than £22 million raised in 2018/19 alone.
Wider government action to tackle plastic waste:
The UK continues to be a global leader in cracking down on plastic waste to protect seas, oceans and marine life. We have recently announced a range of measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, underpinned by our landmark Resources and Waste Strategy.
Key government actions include our world-leading ban on microbeads, consulting on introducing a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of drinks bottles and cans, and recently confirming a ban on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in April 2020.
We will also introduce a new world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022, subject to consultation, to encourage greater use of recycled plastic to tackle the problem of plastic waste and protect our environment.