1.5 billion ‘bags for life’ add to growing plastic waste in the UK

Retailers were responsible for more than 900,000 tons of plastic waste in 2018, according to a joint report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace released Thursday.

Seven of the 10 largest supermarket chains reported a higher plastic packaging tonnage in 2019 compared to last year, although exact figures for this year have not been released.

Compared to 2018, this year the number of supposedly eco-friendly bags for life sold rose by about 25%, based on market share, the report states.

Campaigners said the rise showed that the durable bags are now being used by many as a replacement for single-use carrier bags.

‘Bags for life’ contain a lot more plastic than single-use carrier bags, and 1.5 billion were sold in 2019. This is equivalent to 22 bags each per man, woman and child.

Ban on single-use plastic items approved by European Parliament

Campaigners recommend that supermarkets increase the price of bags for life to 70 pence ($0.90). They point to the 90% reduction in bags for life sales in Ireland, where prices are set at 70 cents ($0.77).

However, in an ideal world bags for life would be removed completely, enforced by a government ban, said campaigners.

“It’s shocking to see that despite unprecedented awareness of the pollution crisis, the amount of single-use plastic used by the UK’s biggest supermarkets has actually increased in the past year,” said Juliet Phillips, EIA ocean campaigner.

“Our survey shows that grocery retailers need to tighten up targets to drive real reductions in single-use packaging and…

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