Plastic bag sales drop 86 percent in England since 2015

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Study reveals over 9 billion plastic bags have been taken out of circulation since the introduction of the 5pm charge on plastic bags

Plastic bag sales in England's leading supermarkets have dropped by 86 percent since the United Kingdom government introduced a plastic bag charge in 2015.

New figures published by the government reveal that sales of plastic bags in the country’s big seven supermarkets fell by nearly 25 percent compared to the previous year, amounting to a decrease of 300 million bags.

“This is equivalent to just 19 bags per person [per year] in England, compared to 140 bags since the government introduced a 5p charge in 2015,” said a statement by the department for environment, food & rural affairs (DEFRA) on July 27.

“These figures demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment by making simple changes to our daily routines,” said environment secretary Michael Gove, welcoming the figures.

A recent study by the government department centre for environment, fisheries and aquaculture science (Cefas) has revealed over 9 billion plastic bags have been taken out of circulation since the introduction of the 5p charge — about 7 U.S. cents — on plastic bags.

The study claims that through the initiative, plastic bag marine litter in the U.K. has fallen by an estimated 50 percent compared to the 2010 baseline.

“Since efforts from across Europe came into effect, including the UK’s 5p charge, we have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the UK as compared to 2010,” said Thomas Maes, marine litter scientist at Cefas.

The U.K. has launched a serious campaign against disposable plastics, with a 25-year plan to eliminate “all avoidable” plastic waste.

Earlier this year, the country announced plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and the introduction of a deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates for drinks bottles and cans. 

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