Plastic bag use in Britain's biggest supermarkets down by 86 per cent

A man walks with shopping from a Tesco supermarket in Birkenhead, north-west England, on Jan 12, 2010.
A man walks with shopping from a Tesco supermarket in Birkenhead, north-west England, on Jan 12, 2010.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (XINHUA) - The seven biggest supermarkets in England have seen an 86 per cent drop in plastic bag sales since a compulsory charge of 5 pence (S$0.09) was introduced by the government, it was announced Friday (July 27).

New figures released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show sales of plastic bags have continued to fall.

The figures show customers of the country's biggest supermarkets bought nearly a quarter fewer plastic bags last year compared to 2016/2017, a decrease of nearly 300 million bags.

"This is equivalent to just 19 bags per person in England, compared to 140 bags since the government introduced a 5p charge in 2015 - a dramatic reduction of 86 per cent," said a spokesman for Defra.

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."

Government scientists in Britain believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed, with 1 million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals dying every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste, said Defra.

A recent study by Britain's Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) revealed since the 5-pence charge on plastic bags was introduced, which has taken over 9 billion plastic bags out of circulation, there has been an estimated 50 per cent 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 five pence 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."

The British government has recently announced a range of measures to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste including a world-leading ban on microbeads and proposals to extend the 5p plastic bag charge and explore plastic free aisles in supermarkets.