Supermarket shoppers used more plastic bags in 2012

Supermarket shoppers used more plastic bags last year than in 2011, according to waste body WRAP. Data published today shows Brits used 8.1 billion thin-gauge or single-use bags in supermarkets, […]

By Vicky Ellis

Supermarket shoppers used more plastic bags last year than in 2011, according to waste body WRAP.

Data published today shows Brits used 8.1 billion thin-gauge or single-use bags in supermarkets, a rise of 1.3% on the previous year.

This shows a slight hitch in supermarkets’ plans to drop plastic bag use in the UK although it is still a drop of a third (34%) compared with 2006 when reporting began.

Between 2011 and 2012 there was a 2.4% increase in virgin polymer – as opposed to recycled polymer – used in all carrier bags, another hitch in the otherwise drop, with a 50% cut in the amount of virgin polymer used between 2006 and 2012.

The bag waste cloud has a silver lining though as the overall weight of bags given out between 2011 and 2012 has fallen, which WRAP suggests is due to a fall in the average weight of bags.

The total weight of bags used – which includes re-usable bags –fell in 2012 to 70,400 tonnes from 72,300 tonnes in 2011.

Notably since the new Welsh carrier bag charge of 5p, plastic bag use plummeted in Wales compared with a 4% rise in England.

Figures also show Brits bought nearly double the amount of “Bags for Life” in 2012 than they did in 2006, going from 245 million then to 408million last year.

However this isn’t the entire UK picture as the figures don’t cover smaller businesses, rather coming from four retailers who gave data for all stores and a further two who only gave data for their larger stores. Asda, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose handed over their information to WRAP.

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