Re-usable “bags for life” have helped supermarkets slash the number of environmentally-damaging plastic carrier bags handed out.
Bag numbers were cut by 26% over two years by the end of 2008, and in the five months since then the figure has risen to 48% in England. Comparing May 2006 with May 2009, 346m fewer bags were used by customers in that one month alone.
The new figures, from the British Retail Consortium, have been compiled from information from seven participating retailers: Asda, Co-operative Group (now incorporating Somerfield), Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.
At the end of 2008, seven BRC supermarket members voluntarily pledged to halve the number of single-use carrier bags by the end of May 2009, compared with May 2006.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “This is a spectacular achievement – especially as between 2006 and 2008 the seven participating supermarkets grew sales volumes by 5%.
“Changing customer habits on this scale, this quickly, isn’t easy. But it’s a huge testament to customers, who’ve switched to bags for life and cut bag usage.”