The small increase in the number of carrier bags being used by supermarket shoppers ‘reflects changing habits – and shouldn’t detract from areas where excellent progress has been made’, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The BRC’s latest statistics show consumers’ bag use in 2012 was just 1% higher than the previous year. However, the weight of bags issued has fallen by almost 3%, and bag use is still a third lower than in 2006 despite sales volumes having increased by 8.6% during that period.
Changing consumer habits mean that people are increasingly using ‘top-up shopping’ in addition to their larger weekly shops. These shops also typically use smaller and lighter bags, which means that whilst the quantity of bags has risen slightly, the weight of bags is going down.
BRC adds that data also shows 60% of stores have front-of-store recycling points offering customers convenient ways to recycle bags and packaging. This is also becoming the norm for supermarket shopping online, where some customers are offered loyalty points for choosing to have their items delivered without bags, and delivery drivers collect and recycle bags after use.
BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Bag usage may not have fallen, but that doesn’t mean supermarkets’ progress has stalled on addressing this and wider environmental issues.
“Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, but the sector is still working hard to keep pace, whilst helping customers to reduce their environmental impact. The majority of shoppers do their best to reuse bags and take as few new bags as possible. And the rapid roll-out of store recycling points and green incentives online is making this good practice easier and more widespread.
“Supermarkets’ environmental work extends well beyond carrier bags to wider and more important green goals including reducing packaging, domestic food waste and waste to landfill. Retailers have beaten a range of challenging Government targets in these areas, delivering real environmental benefits as well as value for customers.”