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Supermarket plastic bag sales plunge 90% since launch of 5p charge

Some plastic bags. PA Photo.

Sales of plastic bags in Britain’s biggest supermarkets have fallen 90% since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015, offical figures show.

Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose sold 490 million fewer single-use plastic bags between 2018 and 2019 than the previous year – a drop of almost half.

The average shopper now buys just 10 bags a year from the main supermarket retailers, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the charge was introduced.

READ MORE: Plastic waste could fuel cars of the future

Meanwhile, sales of single-use plastic bags by all big retailers are down 37%, the Department for Food, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

“Today’s figures are a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society,” said environment secretary Theresa Villiers.

She added: “No one wants to see the devastating impact plastic waste is having on our precious wildlife.”

READ MORE: Sainsbury's will have cut 10,000 tonnes of plastic by the end of the year

Government scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to double in a decade unless marine litter is tackled.

One million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

The figures also show 5p plastic bag sales have contributed about £169m to charities since the charge was introduced in 2015, with more than £22m raised in 2018/19 alone.

The 5p charge for a carrier bag in England is set to double to 10p by January 2020.

Asda vowed earlier this month to ditch plastic carrier bags for online shopping as of August.

Meanwhile, Waitrose vowed to remove all plastic bags by spring 2019, and Boots has announced plans to scrap them in every UK store by 2020.

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