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Carrier bag charge 'effective and popular' figures reveal

The Welsh Government introduced the carrier bag levy in October last year to help reduce usage Photo: ITV Wales News

Research released nine months on from the introduction of the five pence carrier bag charge in Wales shows the policy to be effective and widely supported.

Figures show more people are using their own bags since the charge was introduced and support for the policy has grown.

Retailers have also reported a significant reduction in the number of single use carrier bags supplied in Wales.

The Welsh Government introduced the charge on single-use carrier bags on October 1 last year, leading the way in the UK.

Today's figures are drawn jointly from behavioural research undertaken by Cardiff University and from figures provided by retailers and the British Retail Consortium.

Cardiff University's behavioural research found that since the charge was introduced:

  • Own-bag use in Wales has increased from 61 per cent to 82 per cent
  • Support for the charge has increased from 59 per cent to 70 per cent
  • A majority of the Welsh population believe that charging five pence for each single-use carrier bag is an effective way of reducing waste and litter and are generally willing to pay a five pence charge if the money goes to charity

Figures provided by the British Retail Consortium and a sample of retailers indicate that the number of single-use carrier bags supplied in Wales has significantly 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

Environment Minister John Griffiths said he's 'delighted' at today's figures.

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. 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.

– Environment Minister John Griffiths

Figures also show environmental projects and local good causes are benefiting.

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.

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.

– Lesley Jones, Chief Executive of Keep Wales Tidy

The Welsh Government introduced the charge to encourage shoppers to reduce the number of single-use carrier bags they used.

This was in reaction to estimates that shoppers in Wales took home roughly 350m carrier bags in 2009 - amounting to 273 bags for each household.

In 2007 there were suggestions of an outright ban on single-use carrier bags - however, these proposals were rejected in favour of the levy.

The policy did encounter some teething problems, however.

When it was first introduced in 2011 there were claims that consumers and businesses in Wales were confused by how the charged worked.

Research by Cardiff University highlighted that shoppers weren't clear on the reasons behind it, while the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales said that some organisations weren't aware of the new regulations.

There were claims from business owners that some overseas shoppers were not sure what they were paying for when charged five pence for a bag.

Critics also blasted the levy as 'carrier bag tax' - which the Welsh Government stresses is not the case.

Are you in support of the five pence carrier bag charge? How successful do you think it has been? Let us know what you think by emailing wales@itv.com or tweeting us @ITVWales.

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