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Policies & Issues: Environment

Carrier Bags
Carrier bags are not the biggest issue in waste, in fact they make up less than 1% of total waste in the UK.

Retailers are committed to supporting their customers in reducing the use of carrier bags as part of their wider policies on reducing packaging and waste. Retailers are also committed to improving the environmental performance of the bags they do hand out.

The UK's leading high street and grocery retailers worked with Government to reduce carrier bag numbers by 50% by 2009 and total bag use has fallen by 4 billion in the last 5 years. The figures are verified by WRAP and reflect the investment made by retailers to help customers reduce their use.

Despite this progress, the Welsh Government introduced legislation in 2011 to put a charge on all single-use carrier bags. For more information on how the scheme works please visit www.carrierbagchargewales.gov.uk. Governments in Northern Ireland and Scotland are currently aiming to implement similar legislation.

Retailers will continue to work with their customers to reduce carrier bag use which has resulted in the 50% reduction, if England wishes to follow the approach of the other UK Governments to achieve greater reductions it will have to introduce legislation and a charge as there is limit to what can be achieved on a voluntary basis. Our view, however, is the carrier bag issue is a distraction from much larger and more important issues in waste and we would encourage all Governments and stakeholders to take a more targeted approach to tackling waste in the UK.
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