Break the Bag Habit

Surfers Against Sewage, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Keep Britain Tidy are calling on the Government to reduce litter and waste by requiring retailers to introduce a small levy on all single-use bags. Together we have launched the Break the Bag Habit campaign.

In 2011, businesses in the UK issued plastic bags at a rate of 254 a second. A total of eight billion thin-gauge plastic bags were issued during 2011 ­ a 5.4% increase on the 7.6 billion bags issued in 2010.

Over the past two years, the number of carrier bags used in England has increased despite repeated Government calls for retailers to reduce the numbers they give out. All of this net growth in the use of such plastic bags came from England, the only home nation not to have a single-use bag levy in place or to be actively seeking to implement one.

After the first year of such a scheme in Wales, charging 5p per bag, the number of single-use bags issued has fallen by between 70% and 96%, as estimated by retailers. In turn, public support for the Welsh bag levy has grown to 70%.

When Ireland introduced a plastic bag levy in 2002, plastic bag use fell by 90%. Before the Irish levy plastic bags made up 5% of visible litter, afterwards it dropped to 0.32%.