Statistics of Success: How the 5p Bag Charge Changed England

England’s 5p charge for single-use plastic bags followed similar initiatives across other parts of the United Kingdom, and the numbers show that it has been an unmitigated success. The fine covers all retailers with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees. Whether for in-store purchases or at-home deliveries, a 5p charge is levied against the use of every single-use plastic bag.

Here’s how the statistics of success break down.

85% Drop in Plastic Bag Usage

When the fine was announced, the government boldly expected to see an 80% reduction in the use of single-use plastic bags, and that figure has actually been surpassed. Evidence suggests that England’s consumption of plastic bags has dropped 85% since the fine was first introduced. According to the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra), the number of bags handed out by the seven main supermarkets fell from 7 billion to 500m.

Millions Raised for Charity

Even within the first six months, a Third Sector investigation demonstrated that the country’s leading supermarkets had raised close to £23m for charitable causes. Such trends clearly didn’t peak straight away. In the first year, Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, reported the generation of £11.2m. Morrisons followed by reporting £3.1m for charity, with further supermarket chains including Asda (£2.1m), Sainbury’s (£2m), The Co-operative (£3.1m), and Waitrose (£1.3m).

Future Savings

If these numbers are encouraging, government predictions for the future are even more positive. In fact, sources are now estimating up to £13m in carbon savings and £60m saved in litter clean-up costs over the next decade. With England alone currently spending an estimated £10m each year cleaning up plastic bags, such changes couldn’t be more welcome, and the fact that success rates have so far exceeded expectations bodes well.

It was once thought that something as insignificant as a 5p charge couldn’t produce particularly dramatic results, but it seems that people’s affection for single-use plastic bags was never more than skin deep. With several eco-friendlier bagging options popping up from suppliers across the country, the day of the single-use plastic bag certainly appears to be over.

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