Plastic bag use plunges

The following article by Theresa Villiers MP was published in the Daily Mail on 31st July:

Breaking up is hard to do, even when you know the relationship is toxic.

So congratulations to shoppers and supermarkets in England for moving on from the flimsy plastic carrier bag and finding a better way to get their groceries home.

Today, one week into my new role as Environment Secretary, I’m delighted to say that plastic bag sales have dropped by more than 90 per cent in the main supermarkets since 2015.

Such a steep reduction tells a clear story: of society’s growing concern about the damage caused by plastic litter to the environment and vulnerable species, and our growing determination to do what we can to help.

The new figures reveal the positive, long-term impact of the 5p charge.

The average person in England now buys ten bags a year from the big seven supermarkets, down from 140 bags in pre-charge days.

Every Daily Mail reader who has led the way by using and reusing a bag for life, or other sustainable alternative, can be confident that they have contributed to a cleaner, greener, healthier environment. The British public have risen to the challenge put to them by the Daily Mail’s longstanding Turn The Tide On Plastic campaign.

Those who have paid for a 5p bag, meanwhile, can take comfort from knowing that retailers have donated £169million to good causes from the proceeds of the scheme to date. Yet there is still much more we can all do – government included – to spare our natural environment from further harm.

In the UK we use an estimated five million tons of plastic each year, nearly half of which is packaging. There is no mistaking the strength of feeling about the need to tackle pollution from plastics that can take hundreds of years to decompose.

This is felt in every area and in every age group; but my campaigning work on this issue in my constituency in Barnet makes me especially aware of the deep concern about this felt by children and young people. I agree we need to go further. So I am looking at ways to extend the scope of the bag charge, and at other measures to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the environment in the first place.

I am determined as the new secretary of state that we will make real and measurable progress in delivering our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste within 25 years.

For example, we want producers to pay for the entire cost of dealing with the plastic packaging waste they create, up from 10 per cent now, to encourage the use of alternative products that are less damaging.

The plummeting rates of plastic bag use confirmed today illustrate that making small changes to daily habits can help us reset our relationship with the natural world.

The plastic bag charge is testament to the power we have to make a lasting difference when we work together on behalf of the planet.