Leader comment: Bags more need to cut down on plastic

Plastic carrier bags are still a major problem. Usage has dropped dramatically since the 5p charge was introduced in 2014, but there is still more work to be done.

There has been a significant fall in the use of plastic bags since a charge was introduced in 2014.
There has been a significant fall in the use of plastic bags since a charge was introduced in 2014.

The latest move by Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket, should be welcomed. Trials conducted in three UK cities, including Dundee and Aberdeen, have shown that shoppers have cut their carrier bag use by a further 25 per cent since the higher 10p charge was brought in and single use bags scrapped entirely. This comes on top of an 80 per cent reduction in carrier bag use since the initial 5p charge was brought in in 2014.

It may seem unfair that a typical shop could now cost 50p or 60p for the carrier bags alone if the customer does not bring their own bags, but we just need to become more organised. It is not difficult to carry a few carrier bags in the car in case we pop into the shops.

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The aim is not to fleece the customer or make more profit – indeed, any money from the 10p bags is to go into charitable community projects – but to cut down on waste. Carrier bags have a serious environmental impact and anything we can do to cut their use is beneficial for us all. Tesco alone still sells over 700 million single use carrier bags every year – the kind we throw away or if we are feeling very environmentally friendly, use as waste-bin liners. This is too many and needs to be cut.

The idea that the slightly stronger 10p carrier bag is a “bag for life” made from 94 per cent recycled materials and can be replaced if damaged is slightly gimmicky – but will assuage fears that the supermarket is out to make more money from the scheme.

Greenpeace has said that while this is a major step forward, the next issue that needs to be tackled is plastic bottles – and they are right.

Bottles are a scourge of the countryside. Throwing away so many bottles once we have finished a Coke or rehydrated with a drink of water is wasteful, even if they are placed in a rubbish bin rather than tossed away as litter.

Proposals such as a deposit scheme need to be brought in to act as an incentive to make sure that they are dealt with properly.

It is difficult to criticise any scheme which may help the environment in such an obvious way. Tesco should be applauded for being brave enough to introduce the charge – and all other supermarkets should follow suit.