Research also indicates that the 5p bag charge is now supported by 70% of people in Wales.
The findings are drawn jointly from behavioural research undertaken by Cardiff University and from figures provided by retailers and the British Retail Consortium. The aim is to measure the impact of the Welsh Government’s charge for bags which came into force on 1st October 2011.
The Cardiff University research monitored attitudes and behaviours to carrier bag use just before the introduction of the charge and again six months later.
The research showed that the number of shoppers who said they had used their own bags on their last supermarket trip rose from 61% in September 2011 to 82% by April 2012. It also found that Welsh support for the bag charge had increased from 59% to 70% in the six month period whilst opposition to the charge had dropped to just 17%.
Returns from a sample of retailers showed a similarly positive picture, with food retailers reporting up to a 96% reduction in bag use, fashion retailers reporting up to 75% reduction and home improvement retailers reporting a 95% reduction. Food service retailers reported up to a 45% reduction in bag use whilst telecommunication retailers reported a reduction of up to 85%.
Another successful aspect of the policy is that retailers are passing proceeds from the bag charge onto environmental projects and local good causes and since October environmental charity, Keep Wales Tidy has received more than £105,000 worth of retailer donations as a direct result of the bag charge.
To mark the success of the bag charge, Environment Minister, John Griffiths is visiting Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Glan Morfa in Splott, Cardiff to meet pupils, teachers and local residents who worked with Keep Wales Tidy to create a pond and wildlife area that can be enjoyed by the whole community.
The Minister said:
“I am delighted that research and retail figures support what shoppers and retailers have been telling us for some time. The Welsh public have adjusted brilliantly to the Welsh bag charge and the majority now regularly take their own bags with them when they go shopping.
“Not only that but the research suggests that 70% of people in Wales are now fully supportive of the charge and of the changes we are trying secure in terms of litter reduction and behaviour change. I would like to thank retailers and shoppers for their ongoing help in making this policy – the first of its kind in the UK - a success.
“Of course there will be occasions when we get caught out without a bag and have to pay the 5p. In these instances it is comforting to know that the money is being passed on charities like Keep Wales Tidy who are making important environmental improvements to communities across Wales.
“The pond I am visiting today is a great example of the pleasure and sense of pride that environmental improvements can bring to local people of all ages."
Chief Executive of Keep Wales Tidy, Lesley Jones said:
“The success of the carrier bag charge is good news for Wales’s environment and we hope to see a reduction in the amount of bag related litter.
“Keep Wales Tidy is grateful to the retailers who donate some or all of the charge to the charity. The proceeds enable Keep Wales Tidy to continue its work with communities and to carry out projects that transform areas and educate people about the importance of looking after their local environment.”