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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/carrier-bag-charge-summary-of-data-in-england/single-use-plastic-carrier-bags-charge-data-in-england-for-2016-to-2017
Since 5 October 2015, large retailers in England have been required by law to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags. They are required by law to report certain information to Defra, and they provide other information on donations on a voluntary basis.
This publication summarises data collected by Defra for the full 12 months reporting year from 7 April 2016 to 6 April 2017. We previously published a summary of the data for the half year from 5 October 2015 to 6 April 2016.
We have published the full dataset on data.gov.uk. This includes the details provided by each retailer.
Large retailers in England sold 2.1 billion single-use plastic carrier bags during the year from 7 April 2016 to 6 April 2017. They sold 1.1 billion single-use carrier bags during the first 6 months in 2015 to 2016. Out of the total, the 7 main retailers (Asda, Marks and Spencer’s, Sainsbury, Tesco, The Co-operative Group, Waitrose and Morrisons) sold around 1.3 billion single-use plastic carrier bags. In the initial 6-month period in 2015 to 2016, they sold 0.6 billion single-use plastic carrier bags.
Our data indicates that the 7 main retailers issued around 83% fewer bags (over 6 billion bags fewer) in 2016 to 2017 compared to the calendar year 2014 (for which WRAP reported data). This would be equivalent to each person in the population using around 25 bags during 2016 to 2017, compared to around 140 bags a year before the charge.
Almost two-thirds of retailers voluntarily provided additional information on how much they had donated to good causes, and provided details on the type of good causes chosen.
Of the retailers that provided data in 2015 to 2016, 13 (5%) have now changed to using either paper bags or re-useable bags and are no longer required to report on the number of bags used. They had previously reported sales that accounted for 0.2% of the total number single-use plastic carrier bags in the 6-month reporting period for 2015 to 2016.
Donations to good causes
Almost two-thirds of retailers voluntarily provided additional information on how much they had donated to good causes. These retailers donated over £66 million to good causes amounting to 4 pence for every single-use bag sold by them.
Amounts donated to good causes
168 retailers donated the following to good causes:
- approximately £33 million went to local causes chosen by customers or staff
- approximately £20 million went to good causes relating to charity or voluntary sectors, environment and health
- approximately £13 million went to a combination of good causes (including research, education, arts, heritage and sports)
Figure 1: Amount donated by retailers to specific areas in 2016 to 2017 (£ donated)
|Cause||Amount donated (£ donated)|
|Local causes chosen by customers and staff||33.1 million|
|Charity or voluntary sectors, environment and health||20.5 million|
|Combined good causes (research, education, arts, heritage, sports, environment, health, charity or voluntary sectors)||12.8 million|
Figure 2: Proportion of donations by specific areas in 2016 to 2017
|Cause||Proportion of donations (% of £ donated)|
|Local causes chosen by customers and staff||50%|
|Charity or voluntary sectors, environment and health||31%|
|Combined good causes (research, education, arts, heritage, sports, environment, health, charity or voluntary sectors)||19%|
Types of good causes
The chart below shows the types of good causes to which retailers donated in 2016 to 2017. This chart only covers those retailers who reported on this. In total, 168 retailers provided this information, including all of the seven main retailers.
Figure 3: Types of good causes (% of retailers)
|Cause||Types of good causes (% of retailers)|
|Local causes chosen by customers and staff||18%|
|Charity or voluntary sectors, environment and health||71%|
|Combined good causes (research, education, arts, heritage, sports, environment, health, charity or voluntary sectors)||11%|
- 71% of retailers that provided voluntary information on donations (including Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Morrisons) donated to good causes relating to charity or voluntary sectors, environment and health
- 18% of retailers (including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Co-operative Group) donated to local causes chosen by customers or staff
- 11% of retailers (including Asda) chose to donate to one or more good causes relating to research, education, art, heritage, sports, environment, health, charity or voluntary sectors
Trends in carrier bag use
WRAP previously reported information on carrier bag use based on a voluntary agreement with 7 major retailers (Asda, The Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). Their data for 2014 showed that these retailers issued 7.6 billion single-use plastic carrier bags in England during that calendar year.
Defra’s data for the year from 7 April 2016 to 6 April 2017 shows a very substantial fall of 83% in the number of single-use plastic carrier bags issued by the seven largest retailers to just 1.3 billion single-use plastic carrier bags.
Reporting of data
We rely on retailers who fall within the scope of the carrier bag charge to register and report their single-use plastic carrier bag data. Retailers are not required by law to report on carrier bag use if:
- they do not distribute bags within the definition of single-use plastic carrier bags
- they only distribute paper bags
- they only sell bags for life, that is, bags which are thicker than 70 microns (these are exempt from the charge)
- they are small and medium sized businesses with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees (as they are not required to charge for bags)
Notes on the data
The following retailers reported data on the number of single-use plastic carrier bags sold:
- 261 retailers in 2016 to 2017
- 285 retailers in 2015 to 2016 (six months’ data)
For the 2016 to 2017 reporting year:
- 13 retailers reported that they have now changed to issuing paper bags or re-useable bags (and are not now reporting, as a result)
- 9 of the retailers that provided data in 2015 to 2016 no longer fell into the category of large retailers (and are not now reporting)
- 2 retailers are no longer trading
The data for the full year 2016 to 2017 are not directly comparable against the data from the previous six months for 2015 to 2016, because some retailers have seasonal differences in sales.
Retailers provide data on donations on a voluntary basis:
- in 2015 to 2016 data on donations was provided by 195 (68%) of retailers
- in 2016 to 2017 data on donations was provided by 168 (64%) of retailers
- Sainsbury’s and Morrisons reported on donations in 2016 to 2017 but not in 2015 to 2016
The headline figures on donations are therefore not directly comparable.
We have published a methodological summary alongside the full dataset on data.gov.uk.