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Carrier Bag Charge helps raise 'Bag for Life' use by 70%

There has been a huge rise in Bag for Life usage since the Carrier Bag charge was introduced to Wales & Northern Ireland. Take advantage of these 'moving adverts' to get your retail brand out there when the charge is introduced to England.

Carrier Bag Charge helps raise 'Bag for Life' use by 70%

This week WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) issued updated data on the Voluntary Carrier Bag Agreement*, which has monitored carrier-bag use since 2010. 

The key findings show that since the carrier bag charge was introduced in Northern Ireland & Wales, there has been a significant rise in Bag for Life usage. 

Key findings:

  •  In 2013, 8.76 billion bags were used by the major Supermarket chains in the UK**. This represents a 3.66 billion drop since 2006 and a 270 million decrease since 2012. 

  • Of the 8.76 billion bags 420 million are bags for life, the rest are single use bags

Graph showing number of thin guage bags used per capita in the UK since 2010

There is a huge drop in usage for single-use bags for the nations where the carrier bag levy has already been introduced.  Supermarkets in Wales are reporting reductions of up to 96% in single use plastic bags since the introduction of the charge in October 2011. Northern Ireland have already experienced a 70% drop in the use of thin gauge bags since the charge was introduced in April 2013.  The number of Welsh people taking their own bags to the supermarket has risen by 22%, (according to a survey of 1000 people by the Welsh Government). 

The carrier bag charge is yet to be introduced to England & Scotland and conversely, these territories have seen a steady increase in single use bag numbers. It will be interesting to see how those figures change when the carrier bag charge is introduced to Scotland in Autumn 2014 and England in Autumn 2015. We expect the usage figures to mirror those of Wales and Northern Ireland with single-use bags plummeting and 'bag for life' use continuing to rise. 

What does the rise in Bag for Life use mean for Retailers? 

Even if you do not frequent the large supermarkets you will have noticed people using a reusable Bag for Life on the High Street and Supermarkets. They are also re-used for non-shopping related uses such as at sporting events, camping and picnics. The bags often feature the logo of one of the 7 large supermarket retailers, however it is possible for small retailers and SME’s to benefit from the marketing these moving adverts provide. 

In 2006, 245 million reusable bags were used in supermarkets. The latest statistics for 2013 stand at 424 million ,which is over a 70% increase in the use of reusable bags over the last 7 years! That represents a lot of opportunities to get your retail brand out there, raising brand awareness each time a bag is reused. Don't leave it to the large retailers, reusable bags are something all companies can benefit from.  

An eco-friendly Bag for Life (‘reusable’ bags) can be made from materials like cotton, jute, woven & non-woven polypropylene, as well as thicker gauge polyethylene. If you would like to find out more about creating reusable bags for life for your company or brand, check out our Bag for Life range

Free Guide to Bag Your Brand

Get ready for the introduction of the Carrier Bag Charge and make the most of the excellent exposure a Bag for Life can bring to retail business.

Turn your customers into walking brand advocates - download your Bag Your Brand guide now

Further Reading

WRAP publishes new carrier bag use figures

The Guardian: Plastic bag use rises for fourth year

Read Smartbags Blogs about the Carrier Bag Levy

*The Voluntary Carrier Bag agreement is an agreement between the Scottish Government, Defra, the Welsh Assembly Government, and the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and its supermarket members. The 7 retailers currently participating are: Asda, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.  

** These figures are taken from the supermarket retailers listed above participating in the Voluntar Carrier Bag Agreement. 

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