5p levy delivers 90% cut in stores’ plastic bag sales
A Midlands environment expert has called for the 5p plastic levy to be extended to all shops after sales of single use bags at the seven biggest supermarkets plummeted by 90% since the idea was introduced in October 2015.
Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, Tesco and Waitrose sold 549 million plastic bags in 2018-19, down from one billion in the previous year and from more than nine billion four years ago.
“It is excellent news,” said Ron Fox, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science Innovation Park, “but it needs now to include all smaller stores.”
He added that customers buy, on average, ten bags a year compared to 140 bags in 2014 before the levy was introduced, according to Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
But he pointed out at the moment the rule applied to only retailers with more than 250 employees and didn’t include airports, trains, planes and ships. However, in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales it covers all shops.
Last December the government launched a consultation on raising the minimum charge to 10p with stores expected to donate the money to charity. The levy is estimated to have raised £169 million in the last four years.
Ron said the worrying aspect was that around the world 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, of which eight million end up in the oceans killing 100,000 animals in the sea annually.
And government scientists predict the amount of plastic in the seas will treble in a decade.
“Mankind produces roughly its entire body weight in plastics every year,” added Ron “But the majority is either not recycled, unrecyclable, or doesn’t get reused once it’s been recycled and plastics end up in the natural environment taking up to 500 years to decompose.
“As well as killing sea creatures it gets into the human food chain by contaminating the fish that we eat and the water we drink, and we don’t know yet the long-term impact of humans ingesting plastic.”
He said as a country we must do more about plastic. In its Resource and Waste Strategy the government is stopping plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds from April 2020.
But Ron said other moves should be looked at including banning plastic bags as Kenya has done, charging for single-use coffee cups and introducing deposit-return schemes for plastic bottles and drinks containers, something the Scottish government is already committed to.
“The big drop in plastic bags are a powerful example that as a nation we are going away from being a throwaway society,” he added.
“But it is only a beginning and most importantly we need to move way from fossil fuels to green energy to heat our homes and our water plus also switching to electric cars and transport.”
For more information contact Ron on 0845 474 6641.