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John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development

First published:
4 July 2012
Last updated:

This was published under the 2011 to 2016 administration of the Welsh Government

Single use carrier bags are a waste of resources and blight our beautiful Welsh landscape.  We have all seen carrier bags caught in trees or littering roadsides, reducing the quality of the places where we live and work. Single use carrier bags are a symbol of our throw away society.

We introduced a 5 pence charge on the supply of new single use carrier bags on 1 October last year. The aim of this charge is to substantially reduce the number of single use carrier bags supplied in Wales and create a real behaviour change, where taking reusable bags to the shops is the norm. Information from other countries around the world, already charging for carrier bags, showed us that only by introducing a charge could we substantially reduce the number of bags supplied and help towards our goal of becoming a zero waste nation.

I am pleased to say that charge is having a real impact on reducing the number of single use carrier bags supplied in Wales.  Over the last six months we have been working with retailers and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to gather data from a sample of retailers to establish an estimate of the impact of the charge.  The data collected indicates that the number of single use carrier bags supplied in Wales has drastically reduced since the introduction of the charge.  The reductions estimated by retailers are as follows:

  • Food retail - between 96% and 70% reductions
  • Fashion - between 75% and 68% reductions
  • Home improvement - 95% reduction
  • Food service - up to 45% reduction 
  • Telecommunications - 85% reduction

We wanted the people of Wales to get into the habit of reusing their bags when shopping and the reduction in numbers of single use carrier bags suggest that the charge is achieving this aim. However, to further understand how the general public are adapting to the charge, research was commissioned from Cardiff University to gather data on the public’s behaviour and attitudes towards the charge. The findings of the research are very encouraging as it suggests that the charge is both effective and popular. The research shows that:

  • the charge has helped to greatly increase own bag use in Wales (from 61% of people using their own bag prior to the charge to 82% after) across all age groups and for men and women alike;
  • the charge is widely supported in Wales. Even before its introduction, the charge was supported by a majority of the Welsh population (59%). Support for the charge increased even further after its introduction to 70%;
  • a significant majority of the Welsh population believe that charging 5 pence for each single-use carrier bag is an effective way of reducing waste, helps to reduce litter and are generally willing to pay a 5 pence charge if the money goes to charity.

It is therefore apparent that we are successfully achieving our aims of both reducing the number of single use carrier bags supplied in Wales and helping to modify the public’s behaviour to reuse bags when shopping, not only for groceries but also in the high street.

I would like to thank the people of Wales and retailers, small and large, for helping make this policy a success to date, however more still needs to be done to achieve our aims of becoming a zero waste nation and we will continue to work with both the retailers and the public to achieve this.        

The success of the single use carrier bags charge has shown that Wales is leading the way in minimising our use of resources and reducing litter, improving the quality of the local environment for our communities across Wales.