Despite many high profile campaigns last year, single use bags that are supplied by supermarkets throughout the UK, increased again in number last year. WARP, UK’s recycling body, released figures that show over 6.4 billion bags were issued last year, an increase that reversed five straight years of decline.
That compares to 2006 when there were over 10 billion single-use bags used, representing over a 40% reduction. But it represents an increase of 5% compared to figures for the 2009/2010 when just over 6 billion were issued.
This figures show on average the public used 8.6 single use bags per month, per person compared to 2006 when that figure was 14.7. There are some differences throughout the different nations in the UK, and the lowest users as a nation are Northern Ireland.
The use of virgin polymer has been reduced 61% in all carrier bags since 2006, meaning there is more recycled content in bags today. Those figures are based on an 8% sales growth by volume in the supermarkets that participated from 2006 to 2010.
In 2008 the British Retail Consortium (BRC), leading supermarkets and the UK Government agreed to a voluntary way to cut down the number of single use bags used by customers by 50% before the spring of 2009. As per the numbers given by WRAP in May 2009, the total of singe use bags had been cut by over 48%.
The BRC has said the latest numbers for carrier bag use looks encouraging with rising sales and shopping habits changing. In the UK in general, over 40% less thin carrier bags were handed out in 2010 to customers and 37% less bags in all different types including jute, cotton and bags for life were give out in 2010 compared to 2006. While at the same time sales were up by over 8%.
The BRC has indicated that the 2010 small increase in bag numbers compared to the prior 12 months should not overshadow the huge progress made within the sector. Since 2006, the total weight of the plastic bags that have been used has been cut in half, and the amount of material uses is down 60%, since manufacturers are using recycled plastic more and more.
This, says the BRC, is an example that the voluntary approach is functioning during a time when retailers have put more of their focus on other environmental issues.