Early data suggests the number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has plummeted by more than 85% after the introduction of a 5p charge in December 2017. Globally, we use and discard approximately 1 trillion plastic bags each year, which pollute the ocean and waterways and are ingested by wildlife.
The British Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that slightly more than 500m bags have been handed out by the seven major supermarkets in the first 6 months since the change. A significant reduction compared to the 7m bags handed out in the 12 months prior to the introduction of the charge.
Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down, in Australia alone, over 7000 plastic bags are dumped into landfill every single minute.
Given these horrifying statistics, when Australian supermarket giant Woolworths announced in July 2017 that it would stop giving out single-use plastic bags within 12 months, eco-conscious consumers heaved a collective sigh of relief. Instead of offering to sell plastic bags for a small fee, Countdown supermarkets in New Zealand will reduce the price of reusable shopping bags to $1. Taking effect from October 9 2018, this initiative is the only way to prevent plastic bags from being used.
Andrew Pendleton, of Friends of the Earth, said: “The plummeting plastic bag use demonstrates the huge benefits just a small change in our everyday habits can make. It means less damaging plastic finding its inevitable way into our waterways and countryside. This is a massive boon for nature and wildlife.”
He added: “With attention now turning to the millions of non-recyclable coffee cups that go to landfill and to oversized boxes and excess packaging as a by-product of online shopping, the government and forward-thinking businesses have a golden chance to cut waste and reduce resource use in a sensible way that consumers welcome.”