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‘Bags for Life’ should cost more to deter shoppers from using them too few times, campaigners warn 

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Bags for life should cost more to prevent shoppers from using them too few times, campaigners have warned.  

Sam Chetan-Welsh, of Greenpeace, said that while sales of plastic carrier bags are down, sales of bags for life rose to 1.5 billion in 2018.  

He said: ‘Bags for life contain more plastic than carrier bags do. To deter people from using bags for life like throwaways, the Government should increase the cost of bags for life – which successfully led to decreased sales in the Republic of Ireland – or ideally should ban them.’

He added: ‘Whilst today’s figures are a step in the right direction, the Government shouldn’t congratulate itself too much until this hard work is done.’ More than 680,000 people signed up for this year’s annual Great British Spring Clean, organised by Keep Britain Tidy and backed by the Mail. 

Sales of plastic carrier bags have plummeted by 97 per cent since the 5p charge was introduced five years ago [File photo]

Sales of plastic carrier bags have plummeted by 97 per cent since the 5p charge was introduced five years ago [File photo]

Sales of plastic carrier bags have plummeted by 97 per cent since the 5p charge was introduced five years ago.

Official figures show an incredible drop in numbers from 7.6 billion bags handed out by the biggest supermarkets in 2014 before the ban to 226 million last year.

A typical shopper now buys just four bags a year from the main supermarkets, compared with ten last year and 140 in 2014.

The heartbreaking sight of sea life choking on plastic waste shocked the nation and led to this paper’s Banish the Bags campaign a decade ago.

Last night Environment Secretary George Eustice praised the Daily Mail’s war on plastic but said there is more to be done. 

He added: ‘The success of our plastic carrier bag charge shows we’re making a real difference in tackling the scourge of single-use plastic – but we have more to do.

‘For years the Daily Mail has supported our mission to clamp down on the use of these harmful single-use plastics through its Turn the Tide on Plastic campaign and the Great British Spring Clean.

‘I am very much looking forward to taking part in the upcoming Great British September Clean, as well as continuing to work with the Mail as we take our next steps in the war against plastic pollution.’

The heartbreaking sight of sea life choking on plastic waste shocked the nation and led to this paper¿s Banish the Bags campaign a decade ago [File photo]

The heartbreaking sight of sea life choking on plastic waste shocked the nation and led to this paper’s Banish the Bags campaign a decade ago [File photo]

The 226 million figure covers stores in England owned by Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, Tesco and Waitrose. Sales across all retailers with more than 250 employees stands at 564 million, down from 2.1 billion in 2016/17.

The Mail’s call for a plastic bag charge was initially resisted by the Treasury amid claims that it would be unpopular.

It was finally introduced in October 2015 by George Osborne. It applies to all retailers with more than 250 employees.

The Government has consulted on extending it to all businesses as well as increasing the minimum charge to 10p.

This newspaper’s Turn the Tide on Plastic campaign has championed a world-leading ban on microbeads, a deposit return scheme on bottles and cans to come into force by 2023 and a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds which will come into force in October.

The Government is also set to introduce a world-leading tax on plastic packaging which is not at least 30 per cent recycled from April 2022, subject to consultation. Tom Fyans, of countryside charity CPRE, said: ‘As one of the organisations that long campaigned for a carrier bag charge to be introduced, we are pleased to see it having the desired effect. 

Last night Environment Secretary George Eustice praised the Daily Mail¿s war on plastic but said there is more to be done

Last night Environment Secretary George Eustice praised the Daily Mail’s war on plastic but said there is more to be done

‘But we can’t stop there. Our throwaway culture persists, with the litter newcomers of gloves and face masks adding to the waste that blights the countryside and harms wildlife.

‘If we are to have any chance of living up to the Government’s ambition of being world leaders in this field, we need charges on all single-use, throwaway items – from takeaway cups to wooden forks.’  

It was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak but will now go ahead from September 11 to September 27.

For more information, or to sign up to take part, visit: www.keep britaintidy.org/septemberclean.

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