As Part of a larger scheme to reduce the use, and waste, of plastic across the UK, the government how introduced a further mandatory increase in the prices of plastic bags. This increase was introduced on 21 May and has raised the prices of single-use plastic bags from 5p to 10p.

Although seemingly insignificant, since it was introduced in 2015, the 5p bag charge has seen a 95% reduction in plastic bag sales from leading supermarkets. The simple inconvenience of paying for a bag has resulted in the average family no longer using 140 plastic bags per year, but now only buying four.

The new changes have not only caused a price increase – it is now also a requirement for both small and medium businesses to charge for single-use plastic bags. Through making this a requirement for all retailers, the government anticipate a reduction in plastic bag sales from smaller businesses by 70-80%. This change is also hoped to have a positive impact on the UK Economy by over £297 million over the next 10 years.

Since its introduction, the charge has enabled almost £180 million to be raised for good causes through the revenue from bag sales. Last year, from the £9.2 million that was reported, around 30% went to charity, volunteering, environment and health sectors, 49% went to causes chosen by customers or staff and 21% went to a combination of good causes. This just goes to show the impact which small changes can have – let’s put into perspective the sheer volume of plastic bags saved:

• Revenue / Price = Number of units sold
• £180million / 0.05 = 3,600,000,000 single-use bags sold since 2015
That’s still an awful lot, right? This is after a 95% reduction in the number of bags sold – there were over 7.6 billion single-use bags used in 2014 alone. This means, although the environmental battle against plastic is not over, we have made considerable improvements when compared to just a couple of years ago.

Another plan to reduce the plastic usage across the UK is The UK Plastic Pact, which most supermarkets are members of. Members of this pact have committed to making all plastic packaging recyclable by 2025. Most of these members are also looking towards accepting all soft plastics at their stores including bread bags, frozen food bags and crisp packets which will be sorted for onward recycling.

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