Single-use carrier bags

Donations made by symbol groups from selling single-use carrier bags in 2019 declined annually by 44% to £771,000.

The latest data from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) includes data from AF Blakemore, Bestway Retail, Central England Co-op, Heart of England Co-op, Midcounties Co-op and the Southern Co-op.

It is the first year Bestway Retail, which made £36,109 in donations, has reported its figures to DEFRA. Like-for-like donations by symbol groups, which exclude Bestway’s contribution, fell annually by 46% during the same period. The decline correlates with a 37% decrease in plastic bags sold.

Islington becomes London’s first ‘low plastic zone’

In comparison, donations made by the multiples dropped by 61% to £9.9m in the same period. betterRetailing’s analysis excluded One Stop and the Post Office as the split between franchise and company-owned stores was not defined.

The Southern Co-op heralded the decline in plastic bags and highlighted that its own contributions to local communities increased in 2019 despite the reduction in carrier bag sales. A spokesperson told betterRetailing: “As a responsible regional business, we have been promoting the use of reusable carrier bags for a number of years so we’re pleased to see there has been a drop in the number of plastic and compostable carrier bag sales across our stores. We hope this trend carries on and continues to make an impact in tackling climate change. 

‘Being a co-operative, we have a purpose beyond profit and our community contributions are accumulated from a wide range of activities including carrier bag sales, cash donations, fundraising events, product donations, hours spent volunteering and other fundraising activities. In 2019, a total of £1.43m was contributed to local communities which includes a direct investment of £513,974 from Southern Co-op – this represents around 43 percent of our overall pre-tax pre-dividend profits. In 2018, our total community contribution was £1.35m. These figures are based on our financial year which runs from February to January.”

Commenting on the results, Bestway managing director Dawood Pervez told betterRetailing: “The use of single-use plastic bags is of increasing concern to us all when we consider the stats. The donations reflect our position on the need to act responsibly in the use of plastic.

“While our retailers always encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags, this is not always possible and there continues to be a proactive education process to further reduce use within our retail estate.”