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Huge Drop in Plastic Bags in English Supermarkets After 5p Levy

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Huge Drop in Plastic Bags in English Supermarkets After 5p Levy

Huge Drop in Plastic Bags in English Supermarkets After 5p Levy
November 02
09:58 2016

According to the latest figures from IRI, a leading provider of FMCG market intelligence and predictive, actionable insight, government targets to reduce the number of plastic bags used by English shoppers has not only been met, but exceeded. A price levy of 5p per bag came into force in England last October, following similar charges enforced some time ago in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Previously, supermarkets gave away the bags for free.

Whilst the introduction of the levy saw sales of “5p levy” plastic single use bags increase from 138 million units (52 weeks to 12 Oct 2015) to 1.1 billion (52 weeks to 10 Oct 2016), an additional 985 million bags, this is a significant drop from the 8.5 billion bags reportedly given away free by supermarkets in England, Scotland and Wales in 2014. The number of shopping bags overall, including ‘bags for life’, increased from 258 million to 1.7 billion, an additional 1.4 billion bags. Supermarket value sales of plastic and fabric shopping bags increased from £50 million to £147 million, with much of this additional £97 million of revenue going to charity.

“While it still appears that large volumes of plastic bags are being used by shoppers, the Government’s target of an 80% reduction in plastic bag production was easily met,” according to IRI’s Head of Strategic Insight for Retail, Martin Wood. “The total of 1.1 billion single use bags in 2015/16 is just 13.2% of the 8.5 billion figure, so close to a 90% drop, which is astonishing.”

While sales of natural fabric bags, such as cotton, jute and Jaco, grew by 23% in value, these only account for a fraction (under 1 million) of the additional bags sold. According to IRI’s Retail Advantage, which measures supermarket value and volume sales data, the biggest growth came from woven/plastic bags, which sold an additional 431 million bags.

More surprising was a clear growth in sales of bin liners, following the price levy, up from £156 million to £169 million in value sales, a rise of 8.25%, and up 11.3% in volume sales to 90 million packs (52 weeks to 1 October 2016) – at a time when most household categories are in decline.

IRI’s Wood, adds: “The correlating growth in the bin liner category suggests that some people who previously used free plastic bags for collecting and disposing of their rubbish are now having to buy bin liners instead!”

According to IRI data, the average price per bag paid came down across all types of multi-use bags, except insulated bags, which went up from £1.24 to £1.50/bag.

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