The UK’s Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) has released data that shows that while the number of single-use carrier bags used by supermarket shoppers across the country rose during 2011, bans on free carriers are showing results in Wales.

A total of 8 billion ‘thin-gauge’ bags were issued in the UK in 2011; a 5.4% rise compared with 2010. During the same period, there was a 22% fall in Wales.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) the small increase in the number of carrier bags being used by supermarket shoppers across the UK reflects changing spending habits. The organisation suggests that the on-going squeeze on disposable incomes has meant that families have been increasingly doing several smaller grocery shops during the week rather than one big trip. They also say that more customers are travelling to supermarket by public transport, which has also contributed to the rise.

So what can independent retailers do to reduce the number of ‘single use’ carrier bags?

  • Keep your counter stock of these carrier bags out of sight
  • Set a common sense based policy for when you or your staff offer customers bags
  • Ask customers, ‘do you need a bag today?’
  • Stock a range of ‘Bags for Life’
  • Explain to customers why you need to reduce the number of single use bags that your business puts out into the environment
  • Consider contacting your MP to ask them to support a tax on these bags.

In Retail Newsagent’s Your Say, Dee Sedani commented: “I can’t wait until the Government brings in a levy like the Welsh Assembly has done!” Do you think this could help reduce the number of carrier bags used in England?