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Plastic bag use down 90% in England since 5p levy

Sales of plastic bags in England’s largest supermarkets have fallen by 90% in the four years since the government introduced a 5p levy

England’s seven largest supermarkets sold 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags in 2018/19 than the year before – a drop of almost half, the department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) has revealed.

In 2014, more than 7.5 billion bags were sold per year. Five years on, just 1.1 billion were sold.

The 5p charge on plastic bag sales have also contributed to £169m worth of charity donations, with more than £22m raised in 2018/19 alone, according to DEFRA.

Environment secretary Theresa Villiers said, “No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife. Today’s figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society.”

If marine litter is not tackled, plastic in the sea will treble in a decade, government scientists have warned.

The government has also recently announced a range of measures to eliminate all forms of avoidable plastic waste, including a ban on microbeads. Plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds will also be banned from April 2020.

The Scottish government has already committed to a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, and Westminster has recently consulted on the same.

If a consultation on the idea is approved, the UK government will also introduce a tax on any plastic packaging that is not made of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022.

Originally published in Economia on 1 August 2019.