UK supermarkets commit to 50 per cent cut in plastic bag use

Posted by James Ferre on 19th December 2008

Britain’s leading supermarkets have agreed to a 50 per cent reduction in the number of carrier bags given out by spring next year.

The government agreement with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) covers seven of Britain’s major supermarket chains.

The reduction will be compared to the base year of 2006 when around 13 billion bags were used by consumers in the UK. The number of bags saved by spring next year, if the target is met, through this agreement would fill 60 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or fill the Royal Albert Hall one and a half times.

Today’s pledge is also a step toward reaching a 70 per cent reduction in the longer term.

“This is a bold commitment which will result in around five billion fewer bags being handed out. Supermarkets have already taken some imaginative steps to help us use fewer carrier bags and other high street retailers should look to them for inspiration,” Environment Minister Jane Kennedy said. “Of course, we can all play our part to reduce the number of carrier bags on our high streets and the government will work closely with the BRC on a campaign to help us all to do so.”

Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), advised that positive steps had been made amongst retailers and consumers recently and hopes this will continue into the future. “The word from stores is that many more of us are re-using our bags. That is something we are working to encourage and WRAP will be playing its full part in this initiative,” she said. “Retailers and governments are now clearly working together to help all of us reduce the number of bags we use. The aim, which is at the core of WRAP’s work, is a world which uses resources more efficiently.”

Progress on the agreement will be monitored by WRAP and reviewed in 2010.