CALL FOR levy to be introduced nationwide as figures show public not prepared to pay extra to carry home their weekly shop.
British shoppers would be more likely than ever to use their own bags for their weekly grocery shop if the rest of the country was to follow the lead of Wales and Northern Ireland, and a 5p tax were levied on disposable plastic bags from supermarkets.
A leading national waste and recycling firm has called on government to listen to public opinion that is veering away from plastic bags, and to introduce a similar "plastic bag tax" in England as soon as possible.
While most major supermarkets are aware of the huge amount of resources that go into the manufacture and distribution of plastic bags, the sharp uptake of "bags for life" and long-lasting carriers made from material such as hessian show that Britain is just about ready to kill off the plastic carrier for good, the Business Waste company says.
"A 5p levy was introduced in Wales last year and the effects have been dramatic," said BusinessWaste.co.uk Commercial Director Mark Hall. "If that same 76% fall in usage were to be reflected across the entire United Kingdom, that would take six billion bags out of circulation.
"That number again: Six billion."
"Most people only use supermarket plastic bags because they are free and convenient at the point of sale. Remove that incentive and use will drop dramatically."
According to official statistics from 2012:
8.1 billion plastic bags were given away by supermarkets, a fall from a peak of 12.2 billion bags in 2006.
Despite plastic bags using a third less plastic in their production than 2006, Britain still disposed of 70,400 tons of used supermarket bags
Customers bought over 408 million "bags for life"
The average shopper uses 10.7 plastic bags every month.
Discarded plastic bags are responsible for one million bird deaths globally each year
According to Business Waste, the 5p plastic bag levy which was introduced in Northern Ireland this year, and will come into force in Scotland in September 2014, will almost certainly present similar results to Wales.
"In areas where there's a plastic bag tax, the number one reason for having to pay the levy is forgetfulness. People only buy bags if they really have to, and it's usually because they've gone shopping and left their bags at home," said Mark Hall.
"Once people get into the habit of reusing their bags, we should see year-on-year falls and fewer and fewer plastic bags in our country's landfill."
Campaigners and disposal experts alike are vexed that England has no plans to introduce a plastic bag levy.
"Only England is dragging its heels on this important issue," said Mark, "Figures from elsewhere show that the public is ready, but central government is less than willing and their arguments don't stand up to scrutiny."
"All we've got to say is this: Get on with it!"
Less than a week ago the Scottish government estimated plans to get retailers to charge 5p a bag could net £90 million.