WRAP publishes data on the use of thin-gauge carrier bags

WRAP publishes data on the use of thin-gauge carrier bags

Scotland and Wales post declines in the use of the bags from 2013.

July 24, 2015
RTGE Staff
Legislation & Regulations Paper

The U.K.-based Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has published annual data indicating that the use of carrier bags by supermarkets in the United Kingdom increased by 2.3 percent in 2014, to a level of 8.5 billion thin-gauge single-use bags, compared with the previous year’s figures of 8.3 billion bags. The figures cover the 2014 calendar year for the U.K. from seven major grocery retailers.

The organization also says this figure represents a decrease of 30 percent from 2006, when 12.2 billion carrier bags were used by stores, and when the reporting began.

According to the report, the average supermarket customer used 11 single-use bags per month in 2014, compared with 10.8 bags per month in 2013 and 16.7 bags in 2006.

WRAP also reports that in 2014, the total volume of carrier bags, including reusable bags, weighed 68,600 metric tons, reflecting an increase in weight from the prior year of 1.8 percent, but a 37.5 percent decrease in weight from 2006.

Additionally, WRAP says there has been a 50 percent reduction in the amount of virgin polymer used in all carrier bags between 2006 and 2014. The reduction of 4.5 percent in virgin polymer used in the bags from 2013 to 2014 indicates that recycling content has increased, WRAP reports.

Also included in the report were national breakdowns of the use of thin-gauge bags per person per month, from 2006 to 2014.

The report indicates that of the U.K. four nations, Scotland and Northern Ireland posted declines in the use of single-use bags per person per month for 2014 compared with the prior year, of 2.3 and 1 bag per person respectively.

Commenting on the news that major retailers in Scotland reported a reduction in carrier bag use of 147 million for the year, WWF Scotland (World Wide Fund for Nature of Scotland) director Lang Banks observes, “It’s fantastic to learn that carrier bag usage in Scotland has dropped so spectacularly since the 5p (pence) charge was introduced.”

The country implemented the charge for single-use carrier bags in October of 2014. Banks says that before the charge was implemented, Scotland consumed some 800 million carrier bags per year.

News of the decrease was also welcomed by Scotland Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead.

“These astounding figures—a reduction of 147 million—are yet another indication that the single use carrier bag charge has been a tremendous success,” Lochhead says in a press release issued by WWF Scotland.

WWF Scotland says the figures suggest that Scotland is on track to achieve a reduction of more than 80 percent in the use of single-use carrier bags, and that more than 60 retailers have signed up to Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment, a voluntary agreement operated by Zero Waste Scotland to donate the net proceeds of the charge to good causes.

According to WRAP, mandatory single-use carrier bag charges are being or have been introduced in all four nations in the U.K. The first charge was introduced in Wales in October 2011; followed by Northern Ireland in April 2013; and Scotland in October 2014. England will begin imposing a carrier charge in October 2015.

WRAP has analyzed the supermarket carrier bag data since 2006 at the request of U.K. governments. Additional data from the report are available at http://www.wrap.org.uk/2015_carrier_bag_figures.