Since the introduction of the mandatory 5p charge for carrier bags in the UK, carrier bag use has dropped by 90%. Now the government is implementing a ban on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.
Supermarkets Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative, Tesco and Waitrose distributed 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags since 2018. These figures average out as around 10 bags per person per year, whereas prior to the policy change in 2014, the figures were 140 per person per year.
UK Environmental Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Our comprehensive action to slash plastic waste and leave our environment in a better state continues to deliver results, with our 5p charge reducing plastic bag sales by 90% in the big supermarkets. No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife. Today’s figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society.”
Government scientists have argued that in a decade the plastic that fills our oceans will treble. This could lead to the annual death of up to one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals.
Although the UK is a global leader in reducing plastic waste, there is still a lot more to be done. The British government has produced a 25-year plan designed to double resource productivity and eliminate avoidable waste of all kinds by 2050.
The plan includes a strict tax on producers who have been deemed to pollute the environment and a tax on plastic packaging composed of less than 30% recycled materials. In addition, the government will put in place incentives for consumers who shop sustainably. There will also be incentives for merchants and distributors to use re-manufactured goods.