Business

Tesco to completely replace single-use bags with 10p ‘Bags for Life’

Tesco has announced that it will stop using single-use carrier bags from 28 August, replacing them with ‘Bags for Life’ made from 94 per cent recycled plastic, with sales funding community projects across the UK.

Tesco to completely replace single-use bags with 10p ‘Bags for Life’
Since the introduction of the 5p carrier bag charge in 2015, the number of single-use plastic bags sold in England by the seven main retailers (Asda, Marks and Spencer’s, Sainsbury, Tesco, The Co-operative Group, Waitrose and Morrisons) has dramatically decreased by 83 per cent. This is equivalent, according to government statistics, to each person in the population using around 25 bags during 2016 and 2017, compared to around 140 bags a year before the charge.

However, there are some fears that now that customers are used to the extra charge for bags their sales will rebound, leading to some calls for an increased charge to maintain reduction.

Tesco has sold 1.5 billion fewer single-use bags since the charge was introduced, but says there is room for improvement as over 700 million are still sold each year. By removing single-use carrier bags altogether, Tesco hopes to significantly reduce the annual total of bags sold and reduce the amount sent to landfill.

Tesco’s decision to move completely to more expensive 10p bags follows a 10-week trial of the scheme in three stores. Customers of the Aberdeen, Dundee and Norwich stores bought significantly fewer bags, with bag sales reducing by 25 per cent in the trial stores. The Bag for Life is replaceable for free if damaged, which further encouraged customers to switch to reusable bags.

Single-use carrier bags will still be available for online shoppers, but a bagless delivery is also an option that 57 per cent of Tesco’s online customers are now choosing. 

Alongside the main changes, Tesco will also be lowering the price of the ‘Carry Me Bottle Bag’ from £1 to 40p, and removing single-use wine carriers.

Commenting on the retailer’s announcement, Resources Minister Thérèse Coffey, said: “I welcome Tesco wanting to go further and help their customers use even fewer plastic bags. The switch to a Bag for Life will continue to help reduce litter and boost recycling – helping to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”

The Bag for Life will continue to fund Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme, delivered by community charity Groundwork, which has until now been funded by the levy on single-use bags. The scheme awards local community projects across Great Britain with grants, and has provided more than £33 million to more than 6,400 local community projects since its launch in 2015.

Commenting on the launch of the scheme, Matt Davies, UK and ROI CEO at Tesco, said: “Today’s move will help our customers use even fewer bags but ensure that those sold in our stores continue to fund thousands of community projects across the country chosen by customers. It’s the right thing to do for the environment and for local communities.”

In data reported by retailers for 2016 and 2017, published by Defra late last month, almost two-thirds of retailers that provided information chose to donate to good causes, amounting to four pence for every single-use bag they sold.

“Since it launched in 2015 Bags of Help has had an incredible impact on the environment – through the reduction of carrier bags used in Tesco stores and by providing funding for community groups to develop local project that benefit the people and the places where they live,” says Graham Duxbury, Chief Executive for Tesco charity partner Groundwork. “This step will see those environmental benefits increase and we’re delighted that communities will continue to be able to access Bags of Help funding.”

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