Making a green difference – 95% drop in single-use plastic bags welcomed

The Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has welcomed recent news that sales of single-plastic bags at major supermarkets in England has dropped 95% since the 5 pence charge was brought in.

The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published date that shows that the main supermarket retailers sold 226 million bags in the 2019/20 financial year compared to an estimated 7.6 billion bags handed out for free in 2015.

Commenting Councillor Sykes said: “The introduction of a 5p charge for disposable single-use plastic bags was a Liberal Democrat policy in the Coalition Government. We wanted to introduce this to tackle the culture of shoppers routinely asking for a free bag and then disposing of it after just one use. Unfortunately, these bags have a devastating impact on our environment. Many of these bags ended up in landfill or, worse, on our beaches or in our rivers and seas, presenting a mortal hazard to marine life.”

“The 5p charge has had a marked impact on the behaviour of shoppers. Most shoppers now take reusable bags with them to the supermarket. An average shopper now buys only four single-use bags a year; horrifyingly, in 2014 the year before the charge was brought in, it was 140.”
The UK Government has recently consulted on extending the charge to all retail business, rather than only those with more than 250 employees, and to increasing the charge to 10p. The results of the consultation will shortly be published.

Councillor Sykes thinks these changes cannot come soon enough: “I hope that the government will introduce these changes soon. The more retailers that apply them the better and a doubling of the charge will act as a further deterrent to the purchase of a single-bag. We need to drive single-use bags out of existence. Their production represents a waste of precious resources and a blight on our environment.”

The Liberal Democrat Group proposed a motion to a meeting of Oldham Council in March 2018 calling for the authority to ban the use of single-use plastics. This policy was subsequently adopted.

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