Data published today by WRAP today (24 July) shows that 8.5bn thin-gauge (single-use) bags were used in 2014 by customers of UK supermarkets, representing an increase of 2.3% compared with 2013 (8.3bn).
This is, however, a decrease of 30% compared with 2006 (12.2bn), when reporting began.
The number of single-use bags used per month by supermarket customers increased from 10.8 in 2013 to 11.0 in 2014. This represents a decrease from 16.7 bags per customer in the baseline year of 2006.
The overall number of bags (which include re-usable bags) issued by supermarkets in 2014 totalled 9.0 billion. This compares to 8.8 billion bags in 2013 and 12.4 billion bags in 2006.
These figures represent an increase of 2.4% between 2013 and 2014, and a reduction of 28% since the baseline year of 2006.
Scottish Environment Minister, Richard Lochhead – “These astounding figures – a reduction of 147 million – are yet another indication that the single use carrier bag charge has been a tremendous success, driving behaviour change to reduce litter across our beautiful country and also the amount of resources we, as a nation, consume”
In 2014, total carrier bags (which include re-usable bags) weighed 68,600 tonnes, compared with 67,300 tonnes in 2013, which represents a 1.8% increase. Overall there has been a 37.5% decrease in the weight of carrier bags from the baseline year of 2006.
There has been a 50% reduction in the amount of virgin polymer used in all carrier bags between the baseline of 2006 and 2014. Between 2013 and 2014 there was a 4.5% reduction in virgin polymer used in all carrier bags, which indicates that recycled content has increased.
Data on carrier bags issued by supermarkets has been gathered and analysed by WRAP at the request of UK governments on an annual basis since 2006.
In 2014, retailers supplied information about front-of-store recycling of carrier bags. Of the 4 retailers that responded, 68% of their shops had front-of-store recycling for carrier bags.
Carrier bag usage in Scotland was reduced by 147m last year, despite the charge on single use carrier bags only being in place for the last 11 weeks of the year.
In Scotland, bag usage dropped from 193.5m in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 64.6m during the same period in 2014, suggesting that Scotland is well on track to achieve a reduction of more than 80 per cent in the use of single-use carrier bags.
Environment Minister Richard Lochhead said: “These astounding figures – a reduction of 147 million – are yet another indication that the single use carrier bag charge has been a tremendous success, driving behaviour change to reduce litter across our beautiful country and also the amount of resources we, as a nation, consume.”
Wales has seen a 5.2% increase in single-use carrier bag usage compared to 2013, but has decreased its usage by a massive 7.2% since 2010.
Northern Ireland has decreased its usage of single use bags by 42.6% during this period, representing an overall reduction of 81.2% since 2010.
The Northern Ireland Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, this week announced that funds from the carrier bag levy would go towards helping listed buildings in the country.
England’s carrier bag usage increased by 3.2%, but has made a reduction of 21.4% since 2010.
England is the only country that does not currently charge a levy of single use carriers, but is set to change in October this year.
The first charge was introduced in Wales, October 2011; followed by Northern Ireland in April 2013; Scotland in October 2014.