UK grocers reduce plastic bag use by impressive 40 per cent

Posted by Isobel Drake on 2nd March 2009

New figures released by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) have highlighted the steady progress UK’s leading high street and grocery retailers have made in the quest to reduce plastic bag use – an environmental issue that has been a major talking point around the world in recent years. UK’s retailers managed to exceed a voluntary target to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags by 25% by the end of 2008.

Since 2006, retailers have delivered a 40% reduction in the environmental impact of carrier bags, as measured by the reduction in the amount of virgin plastic used. Retailers have achieved this by reducing the number of carrier bags issued by 26%, increasing recycled content used and reducing carrier bag weight, WRAP reported.

The target to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags was part of an agreement with UK Governments and industry in February 2007 which has been met in full by a reduction in bag numbers alone.

This achievement also reflects the active engagement of consumers, who have helped to make it happen.

“Consumers deserve congratulations for these results as they clearly show we are moving away from using bags once to re-using bags often. They are also a credit to retailers who have worked hard to find innovative ways of helping us re-use our bags,” Dr Liz Goodwin, WRAP CEO, said. “Over the past two years, WRAP has been collecting data and monitoring initiatives by retailers that help reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags including encouraging re-use through reward schemes, promoting bags for life and charging for bags.”

“The data shows that initiatives by retailers to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags have resulted in a 23,000 tonne reduction in the weight of carrier bags issued. The total number of bags in circulation has reduced from 13.4 billion in 2006 to 9.9 billion in 2008, equivalent to a 26% reduction.”