England’s fee for plastic bags is working

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A fee for plastic bags has led to around 90 percent of people in England taking their own bags with them for food-shopping, research shows.

This has increased from 70 percent before the charge on bags began on October 5, 2015 and was independent of age, gender, or income.

In addition to this, less than 1 in 15 shoppers (7 percent) are now regularly taking single-use carrier bags at the checkout, the research shows, as opposed to 1 in 4 shoppers before the charge.

According to the researchers from Cardiff University’s Welsh School of Architecture and market research firm IPSOS Mori, the study shows that the charge made shoppers stop and think whether they really need to use a single-use plastic bag for their shopping.

Results also show an increase in support in England for the carrier bag charge since its introduction, rising from 51 percent to 62 percent, as well as an increase in support for other potential waste reduction charges, such as a charge on plastic water bottles.

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“Overall, our research has shown that the English carrier bag charge has had a strong and positive impact on people’s attitudes and behaviors and that it successfully disrupted people using plastic bags,” says Professor Wouter Poortinga, who led the research. “We’ve seen that the charge has become increasingly popular with the English population since it was introduced, and that it has changed attitudes towards waste policies as well.

“This suggests that other similar policies could be successfully implemented, such as a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles or a charge on disposable coffee cups.”

The study also reveals significant increases in the amount of people taking their own bags to stores other than supermarkets. For example, results showed that 1 in 2 people now regularly take their own bags when shopping for clothes and healthcare products, compared to only 1 in 10 people before the carrier bag charge was introduced.

The study consisted of three separate parts, consisting of a longitudinal survey of over 3000 people in England, Wales, and Scotland who were surveyed one month before the charge, and then one month and six months after the charge. The researchers also conducted a longitudinal diary-interview study, which involved 50 participants keeping diaries, followed by interviews before and after the charge. The final part of the study consisted of observations of shoppers exiting supermarkets in Cardiff and Bristol before and after the charge.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded the work.

Source: Cardiff University