Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Millions fewer carrier bags on England’s high streets

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has welcomed the news that leading supermarkets and their customers in England are now using 346 million fewer single-use carrier bags every month than in 2006, according to new figures published today. 

In May 2006, 718 million bags were being given out – by May 2009 this had almost halved to 372 million, a reduction of 48 per cent. 

In December 2008, seven leading high street supermarkets signed up to a voluntary agreement with the Government to achieve a 50 per cent cut in the number of bags they give out compared with 2006 figures.  This voluntary target built on the reduction of 26 per cent in the number of bags given out between 2006 and 2008.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said:

“This is a great achievement by the seven supermarkets and their customers and it shows that by working together, we really can change our bag habits.  The target of a 50 per cent reduction was only narrowly missed and retailers have really put a lot into this in the last six months.  This means that several hundred million fewer carrier bags are going to landfill every month and we’re using less raw materials to make them, which is great news. I look forward to seeing further reductions in the months ahead.”

Defra and the Waste & Resources Action Programme will continue to work closely with the British Retail Consortium and retailers on further reductions over the next year.  Progress will be reviewed in summer 2010 before deciding on next steps.

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