Government urged to raise prices on bags for life to curb plastic use

Greenpeace Environmental Investigation Agency single-use plastic
Supermarkets sold 1.58 billion bags for life in 2019
// Greenpeace campaigners call for price rise on bags for life
// Retailers witness rise in bags for life sales since single-use plastic carrier bags were removed
// The government will introduce legislation to raise the charge on single-use bags from 5p to 10p

The government has been urged to raise prices on bags for life after sales increases at some retailers since single-use plastic carrier bags were scrapped.

Marks & Spencer sold six times as many bags for life in 2019 as the year before, up from 13.4 million to 82.6 million, according to figures from Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Meanwhile, Iceland tripled its sales, to 107.3 million from 34 million the previous year.


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The government is set to introduce legislation to raise the charge on single-use bags from 5p to 10p and extend the charge to cover small and independent shops, as well as the large chains.

However, campaigners have said this is irrelevant because many supermarkets have scrapped carrier bags and now shoppers are buying bags for life, which have more plastic, for as little as 20p.

Supermarkets sold 1.58 billion bags for life in 2019, according to Greenpeace and the EIA, the equivalent of 57 per household in the UK – more than one a week.

Morrisons, which sold 110.8 million bags for life in 2019, announced earlier this month that it would end all plastic-bag sales completely.

Waitrose, which has sold about 22 million a year consistently, is removing them from sale in some shops.

Asda sold 41 per cent more in 2019, up to 288.9 million from 205 million, while Big 4 leader Tesco remains the biggest seller of bags for life, with 528 million sold in 2019, but that was down by 26 per cent from 713 million the previous year.

The Green Alliance and the EIA said the government should follow Ireland’s lead in raising the charge for bags for life to at least 70p.

The Irish government set bag for life prices at a minimum of 70 cents, which has led to a 90 per cent reduction in sales.

Other measures should include mandatory reporting of bag-for-life sales, and not allowing retailers to keep the proceeds of bag for life sales.

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