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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-2017-to-2018
This summary was updated on 26 September 2018 following further checks and enquiries with selected retailers. The voluntary information on the total donation figure for 2017 to 2018 has changed from £58.5 million to £51.6 million. This was mainly due to decimal point (unit) errors in reporting and incorrect use of gross rather than net proceeds for the donation figures. The figures for 2016 to 2017 have also been updated to address similar errors. No changes have been made to the number of single-use carrier bags sold.
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 12 months reporting year from 7 April 2017 to 6 April 2018. We previously published a summary of the data for April 2016 to April 2017, and for the half year from October 2015 to April 2016.
We have published the full dataset on data.gov.uk. This includes the details provided by each retailer.
This summary for 2017 to 18 is based on data from 249 retailers. There are 226 retailers who reported data for both 2017 to 2018 and 2016 to 2017, and in both years these accounted for more than 99% of the total single-use plastic carrier bags reported. Therefore this difference in the retailers reporting in each year does not have a significant impact on the data or trends.
The seven main retailers from a study by the Waste & Resources Action Programme in 2014 (Asda, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, the Co-operative Group, Waitrose and Morrisons) have accounted for around 60% of all SUCBs in all of the reporting periods.
Table 1: Key Figures on the carrier bag charge, 2017 to 2018, and 2016 to 2017
|2017 to 2018||2016 to 2017|
|Number of retailers reporting data||249||261|
|Total number of single use plastic bags reported||1.75 billion||2.12 billion|
|Number of single use plastic bags reported by the seven main retailers1||1.04 billion||1.33 billion|
|Number of bags sold by the seven main retailers, per person of the population||19||24|
|Number of bags sold by all retailers reporting, per person of the population||32||38|
|Number of retailers supplying voluntary information about donations to good causes2||153||167|
|Total amount donated to good causes2||£51.6 million||£65.4 million|
|Amount donated to good causes for every 5p bag sold by retailers giving this voluntary information||3.8 pence||3.8 pence|
1 The 7 main retailers are Asda, Marks and Spencer’s, Sainsbury, Tesco, The Co-operative Group, Waitrose and Morrisons 2 The headline figures on donations, provided on a voluntary basis, are not directly comparable due to changes in retailers providing this information between 2016/17 and 2017/18.
The 7 main retailers (Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose) sold 1.0 billion single use plastic carrier bags in England in 2017 to 2018, compared to 1.3 billion in 2016 to 2017. This is a decrease of 289 million bags (22%). These 7 retailers account for around 60% of the total bags reported by all retailers for 2017 to 2018.
This is equivalent to each person in the population using 19 bags in 2017 to 2018, compared to 24 bags in 2016 to 2017, and 140 bags per person in 2014 before the charge was introduced.
The vast majority of this decrease was driven by Tesco, whose usage of single use plastic carrier bags almost halved from 637 million bags in 2016 to 2017, to 333 million bags in 2017 to 2018. This was due to a decision to stop issuing single use plastic bags half way through the year.
Excluding Tesco, the other 6 main retailers together sold 706 million single use carrier bags in 2017 to 2018, compared to 690 million in 2016 to 2017 – therefore had a modest increase of around 15.6 million bags (2%).
For the other main retailers, some had more modest decreases from the previous year, including an 8.2 million (4%) decrease for Morrisons and a 5.3 million (4%) decrease for The Co-operative Group. Sainsbury and Asda had increases in bags sold, of 2.2 million (4%) and 27.2 million (16%) respectively
WRAP have previously reported that the 7 main retailers issued 7.6 billion single use carrier bags in the calendar year 2014, before the carrier bag charge was introduced. Our data indicates that there has been a decrease of more than 86% bags (over 6.6 billion bags fewer) in 2017 to 2018 compared to this.
The total number of single use plastic bags sold by all retailers who reported in 2017 to 2018 was 1.75 billion.
Around 60% of retailers voluntarily provided additional information on proceeds from the charge that they had donated to good causes, including details of the type of good causes chosen. These retailers donated over £51 million to good causes amounting to around 3.8p for each 5p single use bag sold by them.
2. Donations to good causes
Around 60% of retailers voluntarily provided additional information on donations they had made to good causes. These retailers sold 77% of all bags reported for 2017 to 2018. They donated £51.6 million to good causes amounting to around 3.8p for each 5p single use bag sold by them.
In 2016 to 2017 the amount of money reported as donated to good causes was £65.4 million. Some retailers who volunteered this information for 2016 to 2017 chose not to for 2017 to 2018, including Marks and Spencer (one of the seven main retailers), therefore these figures are not directly comparable.
2.1 Amounts donated to good causes
Out of the total amount donated by retailers to good causes:
- £23.8 million went solely to good causes for charity or voluntary, environment and health;
- £20.5 million went to local causes chosen by customers or staff
- £7.2 million went to a combination of good causes (including education, arts, heritage and sports)
- £126,000 was donated to unspecified good causes
Note: Marks and Spencer reported donations of £4 million in 2016 to 2017 to charity, voluntary, environmental or health related causes, but this year have chosen not to report this information. Poundland also chose not to provide this information this year and had previously donated £1.3 million to charity or voluntary causes.
Figure 1: Amount donated by retailers to specific areas in 2017 to 2018 (£ donated)
|Cause||Amount donated (£ donated)|
|Local causes chosen by customers and staff||20.5 million|
|Charity or voluntary||20.4 million|
|Combined good causes (education, arts, heritage, sports, environment, health, charity or voluntary sectors, local causes)||7.2 million|
2.2 Types of good causes
Figure 2: Percentage of retailers donating to different types of good causes, 2017 to 2018
|Cause||Percentage of retailers donating to different types of good causes|
|Charity or voluntary||40%|
|Local causes chosen by customers and staff||20%|
|Combined good causes (education, arts, heritage, sports, environment, health, charity or voluntary sectors, local causes)||20%|
Figure 2, above, shows the types of good causes to which retailers donated in 2017 to 2018. This chart only covers the 153 retailers who provided this information, and includes six of the seven main retailers.
58% of retailers that provided voluntary information on donations (including Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s) donated solely to good causes relating to charity or voluntary sectors, environment and health.
20% of retailers (including Tesco, and The Co-operative Group) donated to local causes chosen by customers or staff.
20% of retailers chose to donate to other or combined good causes relating to education, art, heritage, sports, environment, health, charity/voluntary and other sectors.
3. Trends in carrier bag use
For the 2017 to 2018 period, the 7 main retailers (Asda, The Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose) sold 1 billion single-use plastic bags, compared to 1.3 billion sold in 2016 to 2017. This is a decrease of 289 million bags (a 22% decrease)
Tesco account for the vast majority of this decline, with a decrease in bags of just over 300 million bags (48%) since 2016 to 2017, due to a decision to replace single use plastic bags with bags for life from summer 2017. The other main retailers had much more modest decreases - with Morrisons reporting 8.2 million (4%) fewer bags, 5.3 million (4%) fewer bags for The Co-operative, 218 thousand (0.2%) fewer bags for Marks and Spencer and 57 thousand (0.1%) fewer for Waitrose - some had increases – Asda and Sainsburys reported increases of 27.2 million (16%) and 2.2 million (4%) respectively.
Excluding Tesco, the other 6 main retailers together sold 706 million single use carrier bags in 2017 to 2018, compared to 690 million in 2016 to 2017 – therefore had an increase of around 15.6 million bags (2%).
WRAP previously reported information on carrier bag use based on a voluntary agreement with 7 main retailers. 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 April 2017 to April 2018 therefore shows a very substantial fall of 86% in the number of single use plastic carrier bags issued by the 7 largest retailers, to 1.0 billion single use plastic carrier bags compared to 2014. This is equivalent to each person in the population using 19 bags per year during 2017 to 2018, compared to 24 during 2016 to 2017, and 140 in 2014 before the charge was introduced.
The total number of single use plastic carrier bags reported by all retailers was 1.75 billion, compared with 2.12 billion by all retailers who reported in 2016 to 2017. This is a decline of 17%. There are 226 retailers who reported data for both 2017 to 2018 and 2016 to 2017. These accounted for more than 99% of the total single-use carrier bags sold in both years, so the slight change in retailers reporting over the two years does not have a significant impact on the aggregate figures.
4. Retailers’ responsibilities
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.
Large retailers are required to charge a minimum of 5p per bag for carrier bags that are all of the following:
- unused – it is new and has not already been used for sold goods to be taken away or delivered
- plastic and 70 microns thick, or less
- has handles, an opened and isn’t sealed
A large retailer employs 250 or more full-time equivalent employees in total (not just in retail roles).
These 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 (above)
- they only distribute paper bags and/or bags for life
- they are small and medium sized businesses with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees (as they are not required to charge for bags – although many do charge, and some have reported data this year on a voluntary basis)
Some bags are exempt from the charge, although retailers can choose to charge for them. These include plastic bags that are solely certain items, including uncooked meat, poultry and fish; unwrapped food for animal or human consumption; unwrapped loose seeds; flowers; unwrapped blades; prescription medicine. Retailers do not have to charge if the bag contains only these items, but have to charge if other items are added.
More detail on retailers’ responsibilities.
5. Notes on the data
The following retailers reported data on the number of single use plastic carrier bags sold:
- 249 retailers in 2017 to 2018
- 261 retailers in 2016 to 2017
- 285 retailers in 2015 to 2016 (six months’ data)
226 retailers reported data in both 2017 to 2018 and 2016 to 2017, and for both years these accounted for over 99% of all single-use carrier bags sold.
For the 2017 to 2018 reporting year:
- 23 retailers provided data for the first time
- There were 35 retailers who did not report data for 2017 to 2018
- Of these, 5 notified us that they have stopped issuing single use plastic carrier bags, and are therefore are no longer obligated to report data.
- A further 5 notified us that they have stopped operating in the last 12 months, so although they may have issued some carrier bags in this reporting period, it was not possible to obtain their data. The remaining 25 retailers who did not report did not notify us of the reason for not supplying the information.
The data for the latest year 2017 to 2018 are not exactly comparable against the data from the previous year for 2016 to 2017, owing to slight differences in the list of retailers who provided data. However, overall this difference in retailers reporting does not have a significant impact on the overall aggregate figures or the trend.
Retailers provide data on donations on a voluntary basis. Changes in retailers who report information mean that direct comparison across years is not appropriate:
- in 2016 to 2017 data on donations was provided by 167 (64%) retailers. They accounted for 81% of all bags reported for that period
- in 2017 to 2018 this data was provided by 153 retailers (61%). They accounted for 77% of all bags reported for 2017 to 2018
- Marks and Spencer reported on donations for 2016 to 2017, but not for 2017 to 2018. In 2016 to 2017 they donated almost £4 million to good causes related to the charity/voluntary sector, environment and health. Poundland donated £1.3 million to good causes in 2016 to 2017 and chose not to provide this information for 2017 to 2018