Interesting Numbers Hit Headlines for Plastic Bags

Posted by — August 6, 2009 3:28 pm

After signing an agreement to halve plastic bag dispersal, the UK Tesco grocery chain misreported the number of plastic bags issued to shoppers, the Times Online reported Tuesday.

The grocery chain, along with six other major retailers, signed an agreement three years ago to help Great Britain reduce its single-use bag waste. The UK Government initially wanted to do away entirely with single-use bags, but instead offered a voluntary program for retailers to reduce the amount of bags issued over time.

The good news is that collectively, the seven chains were close to the goal, with 48 percent reduction throughout.

Tesco, deemed as one of the greenest grocery chains, reported to have reduced their plastic bag dispersal by more than 50 percent, which was not true. When questioned about the false report, Tesco officials said they faked the numbers for fear of negative publicity.

The numbers were reported through WRAP, an environmental organization aimed at reducing waste in all channels throughout the United Kingdom. In the past three years, the 48 percent reduction in bag waste has equated to 420 million bags spared from a landfill.

According to WRAP, in 2006 10.7 billion bags were issued to consumers. Today, that number has been reduced to half, at about 5.6 billion. The CEO of WRAP believes these number reflect great achievement.

“The overall 48% reduction in single use carrier bags by the participating retailers demonstrates the continued rate of progress in this area, despite falling just short of the target figure,” said Liz Goodwin.

In other sobering news of the plastic bag movement, North Ireland shoppers are on average still using 12 plastic bags per month. The new Environment Minister Edwin Poots is threatening to impose a tax on bags if retailers do not reduce single-use bag dispersal, as the region fell short of the UK 50 percent voluntary bag reduction as well.

North Ireland’s southern counterpart, the Republic of Ireland, has been the poster child for good bag legislation, with a bag fee introduced in 2002. This fee reportedly dropped bag dispersal by 90 percent (BBC News).

The UK Government has decided to revisit the single-use bag reduction program again next summer to re-evaluate its effectiveness.

Although the U.K’s report card on plastic bags isn’t quite as satisfactory as the government and public had hoped, stride in waste reduction should be applauded. This ultimately shows that governmental measures to reduce single-use waste can be effective, when there is a reasonable understanding that change is slow, but sure to come.

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