The battle against single-use carrier bags

posted 26.07.2013

In the second of our consumer activity series we look at the UK?s battle with the single-use carrier bag. The single use carrier bag has been exposed to a great deal of bad press, we use over 8 billion of them every year, they require millions of barrels of oil to produce, they litter, they don?t degrade and they are distributed for free, well at least in most places.

Whilst there is still ongoing arguments about the environmental benefits of utilising multi-use bags such as those made of Jute or bags for life as the increased energy used to manufacture means that many uses are required (approximately 14 - 20). Of course if it goes to the back of a cupboard or remains in the boot of your car then it will never realise the potential environmental benefit, in fact quite the opposite.

Latest figure from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) have demonstrated that progress has stalled on the battle to reduce our consumption of single-use carrier bags. In 2012 we took home a whopping 8.1 billion single use carrier bags with a combined weight of 70,400 tonnes. This represented an increase of 1.3% on 2011 figures. Given that there were 26.4 million household in the UK that equates to approximately 306 single use carrier bags each year.

However, there was good news for Wales which has shown the power of introducing charges for the bags, the levy for carrier bags was imposed from October 2011 and enforced a minimum 5p charge for carrier bags. The first full year of the levy showed drastic results with a reduction of 76%, a drop from 270 million bags in 2011 to 70 million in 2012. Surely with results like that it is only a matter of time until the rest of the UK follows the Welsh example. Whilst the carrot in this instance is the wellbeing of our planet, it is an obvious example of how consumer habits may be more radically altered by use of the stick, in this case a financial penalty.

Whilst the news will come at a disappointment in the wider context of carrier bag use the UK has witnessed a 34% decrease since reporting commenced in 2006.

Here at Recipro HQ we have taken our own measures to address carrier bag consumption in the office by setting up a box where staff and visitors can deposit or take carrier bags for reuse. So if you are nipping out at lunch you can chuck a couple in your pocket and put them back in the box after using ready for the next person. We also reuse carrier bags at our ReciproCity centres for our customers to us to transport their purchased building supplies and products.

Category: environment, general, Mike Close