17 July 2009

Plastic bag use halved - well almost

In May 450 million single-use plastic carrier bags were given out to shoppers . That sounds a lot but its almost half the number given out in May 2006. Last year the Government set retailers belong to the British Retail Consortium the target of a 50% cut in the number of bags, and they have almost delivered on this - missing the target by just 2%. WRAP (http://www.wrap.org.uk) estimates that in 2009, about 5.6 billion bags will be given out in the UK, down from 10.7 billion in 2006. However, there is still a way to go so other measures such as taxing bags (as planned in Wales) and encouraging shoppers to reuse their bags. Participating retailers in the agreement are: Asda, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose. Morrisons is not a member.

Cutting down on plastic bags has many benefits:

  1. Plastic bags are made from oil, so reducing their use reduces the use of oil and electricity in their manufacture and transport
  2. Plastic bags take hundreds if not thousands of years to decompose, so reductions mean fwer bags end up in landfill or littering our countryside
  3. Plastic bags can harm wildlife, for example, they get trapped by the plastic, or they may eat it (sperm whales and turtles mistake floating plastic bags as jellyfish), so fewer bags helps wildlife
  4. Plastic bags look unsightly when blowing around in the countryside, fewer bags mean less litter.

Below is a short piece of footage from Splashdown of a plastic bag floating in the ocean, posing a potential hazard to animals such as sperm whales and turtle, who may mistake them as jellyfish.

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