Press release

Billions fewer plastic bags on the streets

Six billion fewer plastic bags taken home by shoppers in England and over £29 million donated to good causes thanks to 5p charge

Shopper with plastic carrier bags

Shoppers are set to take home around six billion fewer single-use plastic bags this year following the introduction of the 5p charge, early data published today indicates.

This is the equivalent to the weight of roughly 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or three million pelicans.

The charge has also resulted in donations of more than £29 million from retailers towards good causes including charities and community groups.

Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, posing a serious threat to our natural and marine environment – experts estimate that plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

Taking six billion plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us – it will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic sat taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites.

The 5p charge has clearly been a huge success – not only for our environment but for good causes across the country that have benefitted from an impressive £29 million raised.

It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.

Over seven billion carrier bags were issued by seven main retailers in 2014, falling to just over half a billion in the first six months of the 5p charge for single use carrier bags introduced in October 2015.

Dr Sue Kinsey, Technical Specialist, Waste at the Marine Conservation Society said:

We are delighted to see that the bag charge in England is showing positive results. This is a significant reduction that will benefit the environment as a whole, and our sea life in particular.

There is always more that we can do and we encourage everyone to join in on our Great British Beach Clean this September to help keep our coastlines clean.

The data has been published, along with guidance for the plastic bag charge.

Published 30 July 2016