Single-use plastic bags, that's what we’re talking about today. “Why?”, you ask: because I told myself I’d write 2 blogs a week and there’s only so much to write about receipts. So here we are, plastic bags.

Source: Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

A staple of shopping, plastic bags hit UK shops in the 60s and pretty much became the bag of choice for British shoppers. Very much the Coach handbag of the non-handbag bag world. Though it might feel like it, we haven’t always paid for our plastic bags, in England it’s only been since October 2015 that we started paying 5p for a placcy bag by law (10p since May 2021). “That's a bit of an annoying law” you may be thinking, well, let me hit you with some turtle-strangling statistics:

In England, in 2014:

  • 7.6 billion single-use carrier bags were given to customers by major supermarkets
  • That's 140 bags per person
  • 61,000 tonnes of plastic
  • The average household already had 40 bags at home

Shocking stuff, and I don’t have to explain why having too many plastic bags clogging up the UK is bad news, they kill sea life and break boats, contribute to enormous amounts of our litter, and their manufacture uses up resources and causes pollution. So something had to be done; in 2008 the Climate Change Act introduced the necessary legislative framework for a charge to be written into law; and in 2011 Wales became the first part of the UK to levy a 5p price on bags, with the rest of Britain following suit not long after.
Source: Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

But how did the law get passed? Who would dare take on the notorious Big-Bag industry? The people my friend, the people. “Break the Bag Habit” was a joint campaign by Protect Rural England, Thames 21, Marine Conservation Society and Keep Britain Tidy; very much the Avengers to plastic bags’ Thanos. They petitioned, they pledged and by God they tweeted until The Daily Mail picked up the campaign and used their powers for good.

Source: The Daily Mail

The Environment Minister at the time was a dude called Rory Stewart. If you haven’t heard of Rory Stewart he’s a very interesting man who’s lead a very interesting life, he saw the harm in all these plastic bags and to cut a long, incredibly boring legislative story short, in October 2015, we started paying 5p for a plastic bags. On a little side note, Brad Pitt actually owns the rights to make a film of Rory Stewart’s life, which means, conceivably, there’s a future where Brad Pitt makes a movie about anti-plastic bag laws being introduced to England. Cool.

So, has the charge actually done anything other than short-change shoppers. Well, in 2019 7.2 billion fewer bags were given out to shoppers than in 2014. So yeah, it worked, big time, more than anyone anticipated, English shoppers now buy just 4 bags a year, which is almost literally unbelievable.

It just goes to show, if enough people band together they can actually make big changes  in making the high-street a more sustainable place by removing single-use, non-recyclable items…….  LIKE RECEIPTS…. boom… this blog WAS about receipts the whole time, gotcha. Next time I’ll talk about what is and should be done about our ol’ pals plastic receipts, until then, au revoir.