New data from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has shown an increase of 3.2% in single-use thin-gauge bags by UK supermarket customers in the UK, representing 8.3 billion bags in total.

According to WRAP, 8.1 billion bags were used in 2012 and 12.2 billion were used in 2006.

Thin-gauge bags constitute 95% of all bags used by supermarket customers. The participating supermarkets consisted of Asda, the Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Break the Bag Habit campaign spokeswoman Dr Sue Kinsey said that the real figure on bag usage will be higher than 8.3 billion, as this only reflects the bags given out at some supermarkets.

"This is why an effective charging system is so important and why the government needs to ensure that small retailers and paper bags are included within the scheme in England," she added.

In 2013, total carrier bags including re-usable bags weighed 67,300t, as against 70,400t in 2012, showing a 4.4% decline. Overall, a 39% decrease in the weight of carrier bags was witnessed from the baseline year of 2006.

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In terms of virgin polymer, there has been a 48% reduction in all carrier bags between the baseline of 2006 and 2013, bus a 4.8% increase from 2012.

Not-for-profit company WRAP is backed by funding from the UK Government. It works in partnership to help businesses, individuals and communities improve resource efficiency.

Image: The number of thin-gauge bags used by supermarket customers per month increased from 2012 to 2013. Photo: courtesy of winnond/