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Northern Ireland lead way in UK as plastic bag use plummets by 42%

By Josie Clarke

Published 24/07/2015

The number of plastic bags handed out by Northern Ireland supermarkets has dramatically dropped for the second year
The number of plastic bags handed out by Northern Ireland supermarkets has dramatically dropped for the second year

The number of plastic bags handed out by Northern Ireland supermarkets has dramatically dropped for the second year.

While the number of bags used across the UK continues to increase, the total here has declined rapidly since a carrier bag charge was introduced in April 2013.

In the past financial year the number of bags handed out here plummeted by 42.6% following a drop of 71% in the previous 12 months.

But across the rest of the UK it is a very different story, with 8.5 billion bags used annually.

That number is up by 200 million on 2013 despite the average household already having 40 plastic bags stashed away, research from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found.

In England, the number of single-use bags from supermarkets rose from 7.4 billion in 2013 to just over 7.6 billion, the statistics from waste reduction body Wrap revealed.

From October, large shops in England will be required to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags.

All English retailers with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees will have to charge a minimum of 5p for the bags they provide for shopping in stores and for deliveries.

However, it has prompted criticism because, unlike in Northern Ireland, it will not include smaller retailers.

Wales saw a 5.2% increase last year, but its use of carrier bags is a fraction of other parts of the UK following its introduction of a 5p charge.

The number of bags handed out in Wales has fallen by 78.2% since 2010, the figures showed.

In Scotland, which brought in a levy last year, there was an 18.3% decrease in the number of plastic bags handed out by retailers.

Resource Minister Rory Stewart said: "We're all guilty of taking a carrier bag from a supermarket, storing it somewhere safe at home with the intention of using it again, then forgetting to take it with us next time we go to the shops.

"But the more bags we take, the more plastic makes its way into our environment, blighting our high streets."

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