But this action was more about changing culture than reducing waste, a Defra spokeswoman said. “Bags have quite a significant environmental impact,” she said. “But more important they are symbolic of the throwaway culture we have to change.”
In February, retailers had only reduced actual bag numbers by 8%. The multiples have all since taken extra steps to cut bag use and to include fluctuating numbers of shoppers in their publicised cuts. Environmental campaigners questioned the high profile given to plastic bags.
“Bags are a very minor contributor to total waste,” said Friends of the Earth supermarkets campaigner Helen Rimmer. “Plastic bags get so much attention because it’s one of the easiest and most visible things supermarkets can do, but it’s a distraction from the bigger issues.”