Plastic carrier bags

Wrap said the average person in England now bought just three single-use carrier bags a year from the main retailers

Supermarkets have seen a 97% fall in the use of plastic bags since charges were introduced in 2015, new figures show.

The number of single-use carrier bags sold by the main retailers was 197 million in 2021/22, down from 271 million in 2019/2020, the previous comparable year, a reduction of 27%.

The data suggest the war on plastic bags is back on track after being dealt a major blow during the pandemic.

The government suspended plastic bag fees for online deliveries, which caused a huge increase in packaging, with online supermarkets seeing a major spike, during lockdown.

However, the new figures from Wrap show a huge fall from the 7.6 billion bags used in 2014 before charges were introduced.

Wrap said the average person in England now bought just three single-use carrier bags a year from the main retailers, compared with 140 in 2014.

A minimum 5p charge was introduced in supermarkets in 2015 and since then more than over £200m has been voluntarily donated by retailers to good causes.

The charge was last year increased to 10p and extended to all retailers with the figures showing the number of bags used is down by over 20% from 627 million in 2019/20 to 496 million in 2021/22.

“Our plastic bag charge has ended the sale of billons of single-use bags, protecting our landscapes and ensuring millions of pounds is redistributed to worthy causes,” said environment minister Steve Double.

“There is much more to do to tackle the problem of plastic waste. That is why we are building on our single-use plastic bans and introducing the deposit return scheme for bottles to fight back against littering and drive up recycling rates.”

Adam Herriott, sector specialist, resource management at Wrap, added: “Flexibles remain one of the most common plastics in our bins, but just like pots, tubs and trays we’re now at a point where the tide is turning on flexible plastics. Today, nearly 5,000 stores nationwide have front of store collections where people can drop off their unusable bags once they reach their end of life.”