UK plastic bag sales drop 86%

plastic shopping bags
CC BY 2.0 velkr0

It turns out that plastic bag taxes work. Really, really well.

From cutting back on straws to getting rid of plastic-stemmed cotton buds, the battle against single use plastic is progressing on many fronts.

Still, a headline reported by Sky News is particularly worthy of note: Apparently, the number of plastic bags distributed by the UK's largest retailers has fallen by 86% since 2015, according to government figures.

The reason for this fall is simple: 2015 is the year that a 5p charge was introduced for each bag.

To put this into context, prior to the ban the average UK consumer brought home 140 plastic bags per year. Now they take home only 19. (DC experienced a comparable drop when it introduced a similar charge.) And the really good news is that the results are already trickling through to the environment—or, more to the point, they are not trickling through:

A Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) study found that since the 5p charge was brought in there has been an estimated 50% reduction in the amount of plastic bag marine litter.

"Every plastic bag not purchased is one which will not end up in our sea, damaging habitats or harming marine life," said CEFAS marine litter scientist Thomas Maes.

Of course, plastic bags are just one small piece of the overall plastic pollution puzzle. But the experience of countries and communities who have introduced bag levies suggest that it's possible to turn the corner, and then move on to other challenges...

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