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Plastic bag sales fall dramatically since 5p charge



The country’s biggest supermarkets have reported a large fall in the sale of plastic bags following the government’s 5p charge per bag in 2015.

The “big seven” said there had been a decrease of 86% in plastic bag sales since the charge was introduced in England, helping to ease the impact of plastic waste on the environment.

The new figures showed customers bought almost a quarter fewer plastic bags last year compared to the year before – a decline of 300 million bags.

The decline is the equivalent to 19 bags per person compared to 140 bags since the government charge was brought in – a reduction of 86%.

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Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “These figures demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment by making simple changes to our daily routines.

“We want businesses to continue to look at what they can do to help improve our environment to leave it in a better state than we found it.

“It is only by working together we will reverse the rising tide of plastic waste finding its way into our rivers, seas and oceans and the catastrophic impact this is having on our marine environment.”

According to government scientists, plastic in the sea is set to treble in 10 years, with a million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals dying each year from consuming or getting tangled in dumped plastic.

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A Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) study found that since the 5p charge was brought in there has been an estimated 50% reduction in the amount of plastic bag marine litter.

“Every plastic bag not purchased is one which will not end up in our sea, damaging habitats or harming marine life,” said CEFAS marine litter scientist Thomas Maes.

“Since efforts from across Europe came into effect, including the UK’s 5p charge, we have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the UK as compared to 2010.

“It is encouraging to see the efforts to reduce plastic bag usage by all of society, whether the public, industry, NGOs or government. These figures show that by working together we can tackle the marine litter problem by reducing, reusing and recycling.”

More from Sky Ocean Rescue

The latest figures come after the government announced it planned to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds earlier this year.

:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at

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