ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGN organisation WRAP has published the latest data that shows that 8.1 billion thin-gauge (single-use) bags were used by supermarket customers in the UK in 2012, a rise of 1.3% on 2011.
Overall data shows that the amount of thin-gauge bags used by supermarket customers each month has increased from 10.5 in 2011 to 10.7 in 2012, representing a decrease on the 16.7 bags per customer used in the baseline year of 2006.
The overall number of bags (which include re-usable bags) issued by supermarkets in 2012 totaled 8.5 billion. This compares to 8.4 billion bags in 2011 and 12.4 billion bags in 2006. These figures represent an increase of 1.1% between 2011 and 2012, and a reduction of 32% since the baseline year of 2006.
In 2012, total carrier bags (which include re-usable bags) weighed 70,400 tonnes, compared with 72,300 tonnes in 2011, which represents a 2.6% decrease. Overall there has been a 36% decrease in the weight of carrier bags from the baseline year of 2006.
There has been a 50% reduction in the amount of virgin polymer used in all carrier bags between the baseline of 2006 and 2012. Between 2011 and 2012 there was a 2.4% increase in virgin polymer used in all carrier bags.
WRAP has been collecting and analysing data on carrier bag usage since 2006, at the request of the UK government.
In 2012, retailers for the first time supplied information about front-of-store recycling of carrier bags. The results show that around 60% of stores had recycling facilities available.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) responded by saying the small increase in the number of carrier bags used by the public should not detract from the excellent work being made by the industry to tackle packaging waste.
British Retail Consortium Director of Food and Sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: “Bag usage may not have fallen, but that doesn’t mean that supermarkets’ progress has stalled on addressing this and wider environmental issues.
“Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, but the sector is still working hard to keep pace whilst helping customers to reduce their environmental impact. The majority of shoppers do their best to reuse bags and take as few new bags as possible, and the rapid roll-out of store recycling points and green incentives online is making this good practice easier and more widespread.
“Supermarkets’ environmental work extends well beyond carrier bags to wider and more important green goals including reducing packaging, domestic food waste and waste to landfill. Retailers have beaten a range of challenging Government targets in these areas, delivering real environmental benefits as well as value for customers.”
Number of thin-gauge carrier bags – breakdown by nation
Bag (billions) % change
(2011 - 2012)
UK 7.98 8.08 + 1.3%
England 6.77 7.06 + 4.4%
Wales 0.27 0.07 – 76%
Scotland 0.74 0.75 + 1.1%
Northern Ireland 0.19 0.19 + 3.0%