Will Tesco spell the end for plastic carrier bags?
By Joe Harker
British supermarket giant Tesco is planning to scrap 5p plastic carrier bags by August 28. Its plan would mean that 5p carrier bags would no longer be available for purchase in any Tesco store, leaving the 10p bag for life as the only other plastic bag available.
The decision from Tesco should drastically reduce the amount of plastic bags sold in the UK, as it currently sells the most of any supermarket. Over a 12-month period Tesco sold 637 million plastic bags, whereas supermarket rivals Asda sold 165 million and Sainsbury's sold 51 million.
These numbers have fallen drastically since the charge on plastic carrier bags. The UK's seven biggest retailers are Tesco, Asda, Marks & Spencer’s, Sainsbury's, The Co-Op, Waitrose and Morrisons. Between them they sold 1.3 billion carrier bags over the last 12 months, whereas they were giving customers over seven billion per year before the 5p charge.
The BBC reports that Tesco made the decision after a successful 10-week trial period in Aberdeen, Dundee and Norwich. Shoppers had the choice between bringing their own bags, or buying some of Tesco's more durable bags for life. The trial period saw carrier bag usage drop by 25 per cent as people were more likely to bring bags from home.
Greenpeace campaigner Louise Edge said: "It is great to see major retailers moving away from disposable plastic.
"For too long we've seen plastic as something to be used once and thrown away. But there is no such place as 'away' - and millions of tonnes of plastic are ending up in our rivers, beaches, streets and in the sea every year, harming marine life."
The bag for life will cost 10p, is made of 94 per cent recycled plastics and can be replaced for free once it wears out. The only way to get 5p carrier bags from Tesco after August 28 will be to use their online delivery service. Matt Davies, Tesco's UK and Ireland Republic Chief Executive, believes the move will help direct more money towards community projects, as money spent on a bag for life goes into a grant that Tesco say has paid £33 million to over 6,400 groups. He said: "The number of bags being bought by our customers has already reduced dramatically.
"This move will help our customers use even fewer bags but ensure that those sold in our stores continue to fund thousands of community projects across the country chosen by customers."
Will Tesco's move see other supermarkets follow suit and bring an end to plastic carrier bags, or will the bags continue to stick around?