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Carrier bag use down 71%

Plastic bag charge in Wales has slashed carrier bag use and generated £17m for good causes
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The use of single use carrier bags has declined by 71% in Wales and donations to good causes are estimated at between £17 million and £22 million, according to the findings of a report commissioned by the Welsh Government.

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The impacts

A report on the impact of the Single Use Carrier Bag (SUCB) Charge in Wales looks at the impact the charge has had on consumers, businesses and the environment, and the impact of the voluntary agreement with retailers to donate the net proceeds to good causes.

Wales’s Natural Resources Minister, Carl Sargeant, said the introduction of the Single Use Carrier Bag charge in 2011 led to a significant shift in consumer behaviour and important benefits to the environment.

It has also had the additional benefit of significant amounts raised for good causes.

Changing habits

A rise in the use of ‘bags for life’ and other re-useable bags has meant an overall reduction in all bags of 57%.

Among retailers who charge for their bags, the majority reported that the SUCB charge had made either a positive or neutral impact on their business (87%). 74% of consumers say they are supportive of the charge.

‘Wales was the first country in the UK to introduce a Single Use Carrier Bag (SUCB) Charge in order to reduce consumption and the associated environmental impacts. We wanted the people of Wales to get into the habit of reusing their bags when shopping.

‘I am pleased that almost four years on from the introduction of the charge in Wales consumer habits appear to be changing which is having a positive knock on effect on the environment as well as raising a significant amount of money for good causes.’

Carl Sargeant, Wales’s Natural Resources Minister

Charges in England

While the 5p charge has helped cut carrier bag use in Wales, figures for the UK show that single-use carrier bags are on the rise.

Data published by WRAP shows that 8.5 billion thin-gauge (single-use) bags were used in 2014 by customers of UK supermarkets. This represents an increase of 2.3 % compared with 2013 (8.3 billion), and a decrease of 30% compared with 2006 (12.2 billion), when reporting began.

The report on the SUCB charge in Wales comes a month before carrier bag charges begin in England on 5 October 2015. However, in England only large retailers will have to apply the charge – small or medium-sized businesses will not have to charge.

Click here to find out more about what WRAP’s doing to cut the use of carrier bags.

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