The Rise and Fall of the Disposable Shopping Bag

The single use disposable plastic shopping bag is something of an anomaly in the history of plastic innovation. In purely economic terms, it's a success story: it is estimated that over 500 billion plastic bags have been manufactured and sold since their appearance in the 1950s. Sadly, however, 'disposable' too often meant 'throwaway' and irresponsible disposal has meant the single use carrier bag became harmful to the environment. Measures to discourage their use were introduced in England last year and the first statistics about the effectiveness of the measures are now in. Let's take a look.

A pink plastic bag with bananas in

The Problem with Single Use Bags

In 2014, we took our shopping home in an average of 140 free single use shopping bags each. Multiply that by the population and that's 7.6 billion plastic bags under the nation's kitchen sinks - an astonishing 61,000 tonnes of plastic. A lot of the bags found their way into landfill and some wound up littering the countryside and polluting our rivers. Very few were reused or recycled.

Plastic is a versatile material that is ideal for reusing and recycling. The problem with single-use plastic bags was never that bags shouldn't be made out of plastic. It was always that nothing should be made unnecessarily single-use. Durable plastic 'bags-for-life' can be used multiple times and then swapped for a new one.

The Plastic Bag Tax

Following the lead of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, England introduced a 'tax' on single use carrier bags in October 2015 in an effort to encourage people to reuse their shopping bags. Strictly speaking, the 5p levy per bag was not a tax as the money did not go to the government. Supermarkets and other large businesses were instead required by law to charge 5p per bag and to spend any profits made on charitable causes.

Success for the 5p Charge

The first statistics are in and the introduction of 5p charge on plastic bags has led to an 85% decrease in their use. Fewer than 500 million bags have been used in the first six months of the ban and £29 million has been raised for charities and local communities.

At Coda Plastics Limited, we are all about plastic innovation. We are also committed to being environmentally friendly. We recycle our own plastic waste and we also take in plastic waste from other companies and recycle that. Plastic is a fantastic resource and we hate to see it wasted.

If you would like an environmentally conscientious company to create your plastic packaging, speak to our team by emailing or give us a call on +44 1692 501020.

Follow us on Twitter at @CodaPlastics for the latest plastic industry news.

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