Plastic bag tax creates MORE rubbish as supermarkets hand out a billion 'bags for life' each year

Almost double the amount of plastic is used to make the longer lasting bags – undermining the goal of cutting back on waste as 1.18billion bags were issued last year.

The bags for life are supposed to be used multiple times, but the figures suggest people are using them as single-use carriers.

The average household used 44 new bags for life last year.

According to charity Environmental Investigation Agency:

  • Tesco issued 430 million bags for life in the 12 months to the end of June
  • Sainsbury’s 268 million
  • Morrisons 140 million
  • Aldi 52 million
  • Co-op 28 million
  • Waitrose 22 million
  • M&S 14 million
  • Iceland 3.5 million

What's the strongest supermarket bag for life? We put them to the test

Getty – Contributor2
Plastic bags do not degrade, making them extremely bad for the environment

Richard Walker, Iceland’s joint managing director, admitted to The Times that the change had increased the amount of plastic used.

He explained: "I’m not proud of this because beyond the headline of the fact I have just removed a quarter of a billion single-use carrier bags from circulation, these bags for life are a thicker, higher grade of plastic.

"We are selling less of them but it’s not yet less enough that it’s compensated in terms of the extra weight that they are for the fewer amount of bags that we are selling.

"So therefore I haven’t yet reduced the total amount of plastic weight, even though I have eliminated 5p carrier bags."

Sales of 5p bags by Britain’s ten biggest retailers fell by about a fifth last year to 1.2 billion.

Sarah Baulch, the Environmental Investigation Agency’s senior ocean campaigner, said that supermarkets were undermining the success of the 5p charge for single-use bags by selling bags for life too cheaply.

And she pushed for the bags to be sold for £1, saying the term "bags for life" could be misleading.

She added: "A significant increase to the price of bags or ending sales of single-use bags completely should be a next step in reducing plastic-bag usage.

"In the face of a global plastic pollution crisis, supermarkets must go beyond these minimal measures and fundamentally rethink their use of single-use plastics across their supply chains."

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is proposing to increase the compulsory charge for thin bags from 5p to 10p and extend it to thousands of small shops, which are allowed at present to give away plastic bags.

However, he is not planning any action on bags for life.

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