Plastic bag use down 71 per cent in Wales after 5p charge

The use of 'bags for life' and other re-usable bags resulted in an 57 per cent reduction in the use of all bags

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The Independent Online

The number of single-use plastic carrier bags has dropped by 71 per cent in Wales since a 5p charge was introduced, according to a report.

The drastic fall in the number of carrier bags given out by Welsh shops comes just before a similar scheme is introduced in England next month.

The report, commissioned by the Labour-led Welsh government, said that 74 per cent of shoppers backed the charge and found the use of “bags for life” and other re-usable bags had resulted in a 57 per cent reduction in all bags.

The report also estimates that up to £22 million raised by the charge, introduced in 2011, has been donated to “good causes”.

As a result of these donations social benefits of up to £35 million are estimated to have been accrued through environmental, health and employment benefits.

Natural Resources Minster Carl Sargeant said that the levy, which charges a minimum of 5p for every plastic bag used, had produced a significant shift in consumer behaviour and important benefits for the environment.

Sargeant said: “I am pleased that almost four years on from the introduction of the charge in Wales’ consumer habits appear to be changing which is having a positive knock on effect on the environment as well as raising a significant amount of money for good causes.”

Wales was the first nation in the UK to introduce the Single Use Carrier Bag Charge, followed by Northern Ireland in April 2013 and Scotland in October 2014.

Carrier bag charges for large retailers are due to begin in England in October, however rules surrounding the charge have been could prove confusing for both shoppers and cashiers as it is up to till operators to decide whether the charge must be paid.

A bag must also “qualify” as plastic bag before the change can be added.

Government guidelines define a plastic carrier bag as: made of plastic, unused, including handles and 70 microns thick or less.

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