The UK has witnessed a steep decline of more than 98% in the use of plastic bags after the implementation of charges on single-use carrier bags.

The new figures were released by the British Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) on 31 July this year.

Supermarket chains across the UK, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, Morrisons, the Co-operative Group, and Marks and Spencer, first rolled out a 5p ($0.06) charge on all single-use plastic bags in 2015.

Later in 2021, this charge was doubled to 10p.

Consequently, the associated figures show that more than seven billion harmful plastic bags have been prevented from being discarded on the streets and countryside.

UK Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We are determined to do more to tackle plastic pollution at source, with further bans on single-use products starting in October and our deposit return scheme will cut litter and drive up recycling rates.”

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Defra’s findings revealed that the average person in England now only purchases two single-use plastic bags annually from these retailers while this figure was 140 prior to the implementation of charges in 2015.

A total of 133 million single-use bags were sold by retailers in 2022-23, reflecting a decline of 33% from 197 million in 2021-2022.

This, according to Defra, was a huge drop from 7.6 billion plastic carrier bags sold/used in 2014.

After the revised price of 10p was introduced in 2021, the number of bags used by consumers plummeted by more than 35% to 406 million in 2022/23, compared to 627 million in 2019-20.

British Retail Consortium director for food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Retailers have worked closely with government over single-use bag charges to ensure it has been an industry-wide success – with 98% fewer bags used across biggest grocery retailers.

“It has also generated millions in funds that retailers have donated to a variety of good causes.”

Furthermore, the government, through its Environment Act, is introducing other measures, including the launch of a deposit return scheme for beverage containers, to handle plastic pollution.