Retailers exceed carrier bag reduction target

26/02/2009 Return to news archive

New figures show efforts by retailers and consumers delivering results

New figures released today by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) show the UK’s leading high street and grocery retailers have exceeded a voluntary target to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags by 25% by the end of 2008.


Since 2006, retailers have delivered a 40% reduction in the environmental impact of carrier bags, as measured by the reduction in the amount of virgin plastic used. Retailers have achieved this by reducing the number of carrier bags issued by 26%, increasing recycled content used and reducing carrier bag weight.


The target to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags was part of an agreement with UK Governments and industry in February 2007 which has been met in full by a reduction in bag numbers alone.


This achievement also reflects the active engagement of consumers, who have helped to make it happen.


Dr Liz Goodwin, WRAP CEO said:

“Consumers deserve congratulations for these results as they clearly show we are moving away from using bags once to re-using bags often. They are also a credit to retailers who have worked hard to find innovative ways of helping us re-use our bags.”


Over the past two years, WRAP has been collecting data and monitoring initiatives by retailers that help reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags including encouraging re-use through reward schemes, promoting bags for life and charging for bags.


The data shows that initiatives by retailers to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags have resulted in a 23,000 tonne reduction in the weight of carrier bags issued. The total number of bags in circulation has reduced from 13.4 billion in 2006 to 9.9 billion in 2008, equivalent to a 26% reduction.


Jane Milne from the BRC said;

“Congratulations to all our customers and check-out colleagues who have done so much to achieve this result. With this first target met and exceeded we are now working to halve the number of bags taken by May this year. We need every customer to help us by remembering their bags for life on planned shopping trips and, where they do need to take an ordinary carrier bag, re-using it on five or six shopping trips before returning it for recycling. Together we can do it!”