Plastic bag use slashed by nearly half

Plastic Bags

RetailWeek recently reported that the seven food retailers (Asda, Somerfield, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco, and Waitrose) who set for themselves the goal of cutting the number of carrier bags used by 50% compared with 2006 levels have made actual reductions of 48%.

This was done on the group's own initiative rather than by government mandate.

This May, 452 million bags were distributed, compared to May 2006, when 870 million were distributed in the UK. This came at a time when the participating supermarkets' sales volumes actually grew by 5%.

The different stores used a multitude of ways to encourage customers to use fewer bags, with reuse of bags being the most popular. Peter Woodall, the spokesman for the Carrier Bag Consortium says that "70% to 80% of shoppers are reusing their bags already – for school lunches, as wet gym bags or as bin liners."

Other retailer initiatives include:

1. "Bags for Life" programs in stores

2. Charging 5p for single-use bags

3. Simply asking customers if they need a bag. The answer is "no" often enough to make this work.

4. Placing bags away from the checkout, so that customers have to ask

5. Using bags with higher recycled content

6. Providing recycling facilities for bags at the front of the store

7. Rewarding bag reuse with loyalty card points

8. Media promotion of cutting bag use

9. Recording bag use at each store to motivate reduction in usage

The British Retail Consortium says the figures demonstrate that "the voluntary approach is very successful and can lead to better informed customers and lasting change." Whether this will successfully change our plastic fantastic habit and cut down on the number of carrier bags going to waste is still yet to be seen.


  • Mike B.
    Save the planet and take your own bags i do and I can't understand why it is so hard not to do that!
  • The B.
    Mike, most people don't care, I'd say about 10% of the population actually take their own bags to do the shopping, the rest refuse to believe that waste of any sort can harm the environment, and even if it does they'll be dead by the time it bites us on the arse.
  • Matt B.
    Unless it's an impromptu trip, I always take my own bags - the checkout girls seem impressed : D
  • Nobby
    I know it's pedantic but plastic bag use is not down 50%, it is new bags that are down 50%. Plastic bag use is still high, it is just that people are (sometimes) re-using them for shopping.
  • Green S.
    Prior to the money making scheme of selling us something that used to be free plastic carrier bags made up 0.05% by weight of UK land fill per year. Big deal - now do something worthwhile
  • Honky S.
    Why don't they use paper bags - like in the states?
  • Bullet
    I just walk my trolley all the way home, never needed a bag ever.
  • bobajob
    I'm sick of the carrier bag nazis. What if you want to pick a few things up on the way home from work? Stuff a few carrier bags into your suit pockets just in case? This is 1000% bullshit. There are far more effective and NEEDED ways to save the planet than worrying about a few poxy carrier bags. Another supermarket scam. Cunts.
  • moll
    Right heres my 2 pence on the matter A checkout assistant got nouty with me the other day for asking for plastic bags, don't get me wrong at this point i am all up for going green. But this is clearly a purse string tightening concept by the super markets. Consider the wasted packaging on every other product the boxes that are wasted that orders come in. the plastic wrapping they use to seal the trolleys. OK back to the point the girl had a bottle of Evian water she was drinking from, i asked if it was hers, she said yes. To which i mentioned that every litre of water that naive sells weighs at least 1KG and this obviously has to be imported from the natural source in the alps. the fuel plastic and environment costs alone on her bottle of water would amount to such a huge deal more that the plastic bags which i reuse as makeshift bin bags any who. i think my biggest issue is the higher ground that this assistant can take with so little knowledge in the subject and the fact it seems ok for the users to be victimised and have a service withdrawn which has been a de facto standard for upwards of 20 years. not even to consider the fact that supermarkets such as Sainsburys (one of the leaders in hiding the bags to demoralise you to have to ask for them) keep all their till units on with their fancy touch screens. i went shopping at 9:45pm the other day to find all the checkouts closed barr one. but all the fancy screens were turned on churning out random Sainsburys propaganda adverts i ask would them turning these off not allow me at least one bag with out feeling like a criminal
  • Rubisco
    Tesco Metro stores have replaced the bags on their self-serve checkouts with smaller ones. These new bags hold fuck all. Most people now need at least 2 of these bags where previously one large bag would have sufficed, thereby using MORE plastic.
  • Rpb
    Wilkinsons are the worst. You buy about 25 items clearly have no bags with you and after a awkward silence after paying they say 'would you like a bag?' 'no I was planning to balance one item on each of my fingers and toes and juggle the other 5' 'of course I need a bloody bag'
  • Kevin
    If they want to cut it even further then don't give out any bags atall. Don't sell the normal bags either. Only sell the properly reusable cloth/hemp etc ones. I occasionally need platic bags. You buy more than you can fit in your bag, or you fill the big bag that you have brought with you. Aldi seems to do perfectly well selling the bags. They also sometimes have the boxes products come in to use as well. If the supermarkets went back to leaving the empty cardboard boxes out for customers that'd be a help! I liked what one guy said on the tv yesterday, they're getting free publicity fro the bags so why should we pay for them :P
  • Dave S.
    And has it reduced rubbish? HAS IT FUCK!
  • oliverreed
    Supermarkets aren't green at all, leaving icey cold fridges at full blast all day without doors or covers on them must be doing the world of good...... It's suits the supermarkets to follow this policy particular policy as it's easy for them to program the staff to ask these bag related questions. My Wilkos are too busy asking me if I want mobile top-ups to offer me a bag

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