Sales of plastic bags by the seven biggest retailers in England have fallen by 90 percent since a 5-pence charge was introduced in 2015, according to new government statistics.
The government release did not give comparative figures for total plastic bag sales since 2015, but said the average person in England now buys just 10 bags a year from the most popular supermarket retailers, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the charge was introduced.
Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-Operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose sold 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags in 2018-19, or 549 million in total, for a drop of almost half on the previous year, said the United Kingdom's Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in a July 31 statement.
The total single-use carrier bag sales reported by all large retailers fell 37 percent to 1.11 billion compared with the previous year.
The U.K. introduced a 5-pence plastic bag charge in England in October 2015 as part of a nationwide scheme to crack down on plastic waste.
In August 2018, the government said it was planning to extend the single-use plastic bag charge to all retailers and increase the minimum charge to at least 10 pence.
The DEFRA statement said small and medium-sized enterprises, which has thus far been exempt from the plastic bag charge, supply an estimated 3.4 billion single-use plastic bags per year.
Trade bodies representing 40,000 small retailers have already launched a voluntarily approach to a 5-pence charge, but this accounts for less than one-fifth of England's estimated 220,000 small businesses.