When Waste Resources Action Plan (WRAP) revealed that the amount of single-use plastic carrier bags handed out in 2011 increased by almost 800 million, environmental groups demanded that the public do more, and “break the bag habit”, but a recent survey conducted by consumer watchdog Which? found that 92 per cent of consumers in England and Scotland do reuse their carrier bags, and that 56 per cent are happy to pay for them.
Of the 1,116 adults who took part in the Which? survey, 74 per cent confirmed that they reuse their plastic carrier bags as bin liners, 53 per cent for second shopping trips, and just 8 per cent confessed to throwing their bags away after one use.
Fifty-six per cent of English and Scottish shoppers would support retailers who impose a 5p carrier bag charge on their single-use plastic bags, and among those opposed to a charge, just 45 per cent think they should be entitled to free carrier bags.
Recycling seems to be one of the biggest concerns, and six in ten shoppers confirmed that, while supermarkets provide plastic bag recycling bins, they do not encourage people to use them.
Shoppers in Wales already pay a 5p carrier bag ‘tax’ on all single-use bags, and while it initially caused outrage among retailers; many of the UK’s larger supermarket chains have reported that the demand for plastic bags has dropped by as much as 80 per cent since the charge was introduced.
Northern Ireland will impose a carrier bag levy from 2013, and the Scottish government is consulting on the issue, but a spokesperson for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said, “We want to work with retailers to help them lift their game to cut the number of bags they hand out. We are monitoring the results of the charging scheme in Wales and the outcome of the Scottish consultation on a charge.”