According to figures from the waste reduction body Wrap, supermarket customers in the UK used almost 8 billion single-use plastic bags in 2011, a 5.4% rise on the 7.6 billion in 2010, with each person using an average of almost 11 a month. This was the second annual rise in a row.
Wrap also points out that in Wales, where a 5p charge was introduced last October, the amount of throwaway bags being taken home has fallen significantly.
England is the only part of the UK which has no plans for a plastic bag charge, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage are calling for one to be brought in.
From The Guardian:
Samantha Harding, CPRE “stop the drop” campaign manager, said bag levies had been shown to work in Wales and in Ireland, where plastic bag use fell by 90% following the introduction of a charge.
“A levy is coming to Northern Ireland and Scotland is already consulting on one. Why must the English countryside be the last to benefit from good environmental policies?” she asked.
The organizations say plastic bags end up littering England’s streets, countryside and beaches, while in the sea they can entangle or be swallowed by wildlife.
Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide, or about 1 million plastic bags every minute, but a single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Around the world, some nations and cities, recognizing that plastic bags are bad for the earth because they are made from petroleum and don’t decompose, have begun imposing bans on single-use plastic bags. Parts of China, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany have either banned plastic bags outright or introduced a fee for them.
And earlier this year, in the US, the city of Los Angeles approved a ban on plastic bags, joining 48 other California cities, and numerous other American cities that already have plastic bag bans.
Memo to England: time to get going on the fee for single-use plastic bags.
Photo Credit: Frank Gruber