Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Government minister urges people to get a habit:a bag habit

Government minister urges people to get a habit:a bag habit

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (80/09) issued by COI News Distribution Service on 7 April 2009

Shoppers in the UK each get through a shocking 13,000 carrier bags in their lifetimes, new research shows today as the Government launches a new campaign on reusing bags.

A survey of shoppers found that on average we use more than 160 new carrier bags each every single year, at least 400 a year for the average household. In 2008 alone, 9.9 billion carrier bags were distributed -- enough to fill 188 Olympic swimming pools, and if laid end to end they would reach to the moon and back seven times.

Environment Minister Jane Kennedy said:

"We simply can't continue using the billions of new carrier bags we do every year, it's such a huge waste and a visible symbol of our throwaway society.

"Retailers and the public have already made great steps in the right direction, and I think if we really can 'get a bag habit' and remember to reuse our bags, it puts us on the right track to doing even more to reduce the amount of waste we're sending to landfill."

The "Get a bag habit" campaign launched today with the British Retail Consortium aims to encourage the reuse of carrier bags and follows a commitment by seven leading supermarkets to reach a 50 per cent cut in the number of bags given out by the end of May this year. Since 2006 retailers have reduced the amount of bags they give out by 26 per cent.

Jane Milne, BRC Business Environment Director, said:

"Customers have done a great deal to help us reduce the number of carrier bags issued each year by over a quarter. Now, we all need to redouble our efforts to reach our target of halving new bag numbers by this May. Let's all 'get a bag habit'!

"This is a symbolic step towards using resources more wisely. This is in addition to retailers' other green initiatives, such as providing in-store recycling facilities and launching a universal recycling label."

WRAP Director of Retail and Organic Programmes, Dr Richard Swannell said:

"We all are changing our shopping habits and there has been a large reduction in the numbers of carrier bag over the past two years as a result. If we remember to reuse bags more often we can use much less than the 9.9 billion bags taken last year. That has to be a positive step forward."

YouGov polled almost 2,500 shoppers who had their own 'top tips' for remembering to re-use their carrier bags. Of those who re-use their carrier bags for shopping, 49 per cent keep them in the boot of the car -- the most popular tip. This is followed by keeping them in handbags (29 per cent), having a bag caddy by the door (21 per cent) and hanging them on the back door (16 per cent). The survey found that 88 per cent of those questioned had up to 40 disposable carrier bags hoarded at home.

For more information about the campaign visit:

Notes to editors:

1. The 'Get a bag habit' campaign is a government-funded campaign in support of retailers commitments to cut the number of bags they give out.

2. Seven leading supermarkets have committed to reach a 50 per cent cut in the number of bags they give out by the end of May 2009. The participating retailers are Asda, Co-operative Group, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Sainsburys, Somerfield and Tesco.

3. WRAP announced in February 2009 that retailers had exceeded a previous commitment to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags by 25 per cent. Since 2006 retailers have reduced the environmental impact of bags by 40 per cent, and reduced the number of bags they give out by 26 per cent.

4. The calculation of 162 bags per person every year and 13,000 over each person's lifetime is based on current usage figures of 9.9 billion bags per year across the country.

5. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,436 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13 and 16 March 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)

6. "Get a bag habit" campaign materials are available for retailers and local authorities to help cut their bag use. Materials are available from

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