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Plastic bag usage decreasing in the UK

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Plastic bags landfillEngland may still be stalling when it comes to introducing the mandatory 5p levy on plastic bags in supermarkets but recent figures have shown that the usage of plastic bags IS falling across Great Britain.

Shoppers of Great Britain used 8.1bn plastic bags in 2012, a small rise of 1.3% on 2011 but a decrease of 34% on 2006 when a monster 12.2bn bags were used. This is largely due to the average shopper using 16.7 plastic bags a month to a now more respectable 10.7 bags a month recorded last year.


Supermarkets are doing their bit, with 60% of all supermarkets across Great Britain installing recycling facilities in front of their stores. The average weight of a plastic bag has also dropped by 36% since 2006 and now use 20% less plastic than they did 20 years ago. The introduction of ‘bags for life’ has proved successful with over 408m bags used last year.

All the above resulted in a 2.6% decrease of the overall weight of plastic bags (including ‘bags for life’) to 70,400 tonnes, down from 72,300 in 2011.


Last year a 5p charge on plastic bags was introduced in Wales and the levy saw the use of plastic bags fall dramatically by 76%. Since then the same levy has been introduced in Northern Ireland to curb their use, which increased by 30% in 2011, and Scotland plans to introduce the charge in the autumn next year. Environmental campaigners are baffled that there are currently no plans to introduce the levy in England after bag usage rose by 4.4% last year. Interestingly the Republic of Ireland have had a plastic bag tax for over a decade now, introducing it in 2002.

Not so plastic fantastic; did you know?

What can we do to help?

As a nation we are still using too many plastic bags so to help cut the figures further shoppers can use ‘bags for life’, now available at most supermarkets. If they aren’t available simply bring one along from another supermarket. Also remember to leave empty ‘bags for life’ in the boot of your car, that way you wont forget them on your next trip to the shops.

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