Plastic pollution: Morrisons to trial 20p paper bags

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Image caption,
The US-style paper carrier bag will have handles and a similar capacity to a plastic carrier bag

Morrisons is introducing a reusable 20p paper bag as part of an eight-week trial in eight of its stores.

The supermarket chain will also trial increasing the cost of its reusable plastic carrier bag to 15p, in a bid to reduce the plastic used by customers.

Since the plastic bag charge was introduced, supermarket customers' bag use has reduced by more than 85%.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has set up a consultation on raising the cost of plastic bags in England.

The Morrisons trial will take place across stores in England, Wales, Scotland and Gibraltar. The supermarket chain said reducing plastic was their customers' top environmental concern.

But some retailers have warned paper bags also come with their own environmental challenges.

Waitrose said it was not currently introducing a paper bag because "it can take three times more energy to make a paper bag than a plastic one".

The production of paper bags uses more energy and creates more CO2 emissions than the manufacture of plastic bags.

But paper decomposes much more quickly, while plastic can remain part of the environment for hundreds of years, causing damage to animals and marine life.

What does your supermarket charge for plastic bags?

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  • The Co-operative, Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury's charge the minimum 5p for a carrier bag
  • Tesco and Asda charge 10p for its cheapest reusable bag while Aldi and Lidl charge 9p for a similar product
  • Waitrose says it is replacing its plastic fruit and veg carriers with a home compostable alternative by spring 2019, and it intends to remove its 5p carrier bags from circulation

The 20p US-style paper carrier bag has handles and a similar capacity to a plastic carrier bag.

In June last year Morrisons reintroduced small paper bags for loose fruit and veg, which cut out the use of 150 million small plastic bags every year.

The retailer added that removing 5p bags from its shops, and replacing them with 10p reusable carriers, reduced bag sales at the supermarket by 25% in 2018.

History of the plastic bag charge

  • The 5p charge for plastic bags was introduced first in Wales in 2011, then in Northern Ireland in 2013, before Scotland introduced the charge for all carrier bags in 2014, and England rolled out its plastic bag charge on 5 October 2015
  • All retailers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have to charge a minimum of 5p for a plastic bag
  • In England only retailers with more than 250 employees have to charge customers for the use of plastic bags
  • Retailers are expected to donate the 5p charge to charitable causes

In 2014 7.6 billion bags were given away to customers at England's seven largest supermarkets, the equivalent of 140 per member of the population.

Between 2017 and 2018 just over a billion bags were sold at major supermarkets across the UK.

A new consultation could see the charge imposed on smaller retailers by January 2020, and the minimum charge increased to 10p for one plastic bag.

Smaller retailers in England supply about 3.6 billion single-use bags annually.

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