Bag for life or just a cupboard full of good intent

Riverside Waste Machinery

As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of waste balers we always keep abreast of what’s happening in the sector and there was good and bad news last week following WRAP’s latest statistics.

The bad news was that there has been an increase in the number of single use carrier bags between 2011 and 2012, with England seeing the greatest increase of 4.4%.The good news is that despite this increase, the total weight of bags fell due to the amount of material they now contain.

This, coupled with the fact that there is still a significant overall reduction in the number of carrier bags being used since 2006, is cause to remain optimistic but highlights the need for ongoing education and, more importantly, implementation.

We are all guilty of forgetting to take our ‘Bag for Life’ shopping with us especially when just popping out for a few items. It is this ‘top up’ shop involving smaller and lighter bags, according to The British Retail Consortium (BRC), that has resulted in the quantity rising but the weight declining.

It said that the increase in the number of bags “should not detract from areas where excellent progress has been made” but with the number of single-use, reusable bags reaching 8.5 billion last year, it is clear the UK still has some way to go.

Although carrier bags only account for 0.01% of municipal waste streams, as a product they are indicative of our wasteful culture. It is therefore not surprising that there are calls for Defra to investigate the implications and benefits of a tax to bring about further behavioural changes.

Whilst these changes in behaviour are imperative, it may be easier said than done when considering the nation’s changing shopping trends. As an integral part of the waste industry’s supply chain, we would wholeheartedly welcome any new legislation for both the good of the industry and the environment.

With more than half of supermarkets offering areas for bag and packaging recycling and even the online retailer Ocado claiming to recycle 100% of the carrier bags it collects, it’s encouraging to think that on the whole, the UK is ready to listen and embrace further changes to continue the drive for waste efficiency.