Insights from the UK and beyond
When will Britain bin its plastic bag habit?
Over the last three years supermarkets have reduced the number of bags from 870 million to 452 million, just failing to meet a government target to cut the number by half.
The reduction drew words of praise from Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.
“This is a great achievement by the seven supermarkets and their customers and it shows that by working together, we really can change our bag habits,” said Benn.
The British Retail Consortium has backed the government’s softly, softly stance.
“These figures send a clear message: the voluntary approach is very successful and can lead to better informed customers and lasting change,” said Stephen Robertson, the BRC Director General.
But with environmentalists saying plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to disintegrate and pose threats to marine life, birds and other animals, the UN has recently called for governments to take a more punitive approach.
“Thin film single-use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased-out rapidly everywhere — there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director in June.
Given that a number of countries throughout the world have already outlawed plastic shopping bags isn’t it time Britain took a more interventionist approach to curtailing their use?