Poll shows public is behind bag charge as usage drops dramatically in England

30 July 2016: Increased popular demand for raised funds to go to anti-litter initiatives

The huge fall in the use of carrier bags in England has been complemented by a notable increase in public support for the charge, according to the Break the Bag Habit coalition (BTBH) of anti-litter charities [1].

New Government statistics show that carrier bag usage in England has dropped significantly since a bag charge was introduced last October, with usage decreasing from 7.64 billion bags in 2014 to 0.6 billion in the six months between October 2015 and 6 April 2016 [2].

BTBHBTBH’s recent poll, conducted by ICM, found that 70% of English respondents now find it reasonable to charge 5p for all carrier bags – an 8% increase in support in the eight months after the English charge came into force [3]. This increase was particularly marked amongst younger people, where support jumped 10%.

Since the English charge came into force, there has been some debate about how the funds raised will be used. Nearly three quarters of respondents to the ICM survey (74%) supported the idea of using the money specifically for a national anti-litter programme. This is a cause supported by BTBH.

 Samantha Harding, spokesperson for the Break the Bag Habit coalition, said:

“This truly impressive reduction in bag usage will benefit our seas, rivers, streets and countryside. It fully justifies the Government’s move to introduce the charge.

“With such strong public support, we should now encourage retailers to donate some of the money to a national anti-litter strategy. We need to tackle England’s unacceptable £1 billion litter bill, and a well-funded national programme could help to reduce other waste, such as drinks bottles and coffee cups, as quickly and effectively as the bag charge has done.”

The BTBH coalition started campaigning in 2012 for a bag charge scheme that would reduce litter and bag usage across England. Other home nations have had universal bag charges or taxes since 2011; carrier bag usage in Northern Ireland dropped 81% between 2010 and 2014 [4].


Notes to Editors

[1] The Break the Bag Habit coalition consists of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Greener Upon Thames, Keep Britain Tidy, Surfers Against Sewage and Thames21. The coalition has long worked towards the introduction of a carrier bag charge scheme in England.

[2] Defra, Billions fewer plastic bags on the streets, 30 July 2016.

[3] The 2016 poll was conducted by ICM on 11th of May 2016. ICM interviewed a random sample of 2000 GB adults, including 1742 in England, aged 18+ online. The results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information is available at www.icmresearch.co.uk.

The young people quoted are survey respondents aged 18-24.

Details of the 2015 poll are available here (30 September 2015).

[4] Bag usage in Wales declined 78 % between 2010 and 2014; in Scotland, usage decreased 13% between 2013 and 2014, despite the universal charge only coming into force in October 2014. WRAP figures, 24 July 2015.

Northern Ireland introduced a single use carrier bag charge in April 2013. WRAP figures, 24 July 2015.