Usage of plastics carrier bags plummets

7th November 2016 | Recycling

It is approaching the first anniversary of the introduction in the UK of a 5p surcharge for plastic carrier bags: their usage has plummeted during the year. This is according to Veolia, a major recycling company and waste carrier.

Richard Kirkman, technical director at Veolia UK and Ireland, said the number of plastic carrier bags collected by the company had fallen from an estimated 170m to 40m in a year, a reduction of 75%.

He noted that the change in behaviour is equally as important as the reduction in plastic carrier bags.  It shows the people are not only thinking about being more environmentally conscious, but are acting that way too. He urged people to keep up the momentum so that further reductions would be seen on the second anniversary.

Veolia is converting the plastic carrier bags it collects into new refuse sacks. Kirkman says that through its Bag2Bag scheme, which was launched in the London borough of Southwark, the company recycles the low density film back into single-use refuse sacks. These are then distributed to local residents. “We are hoping to roll it out to other local authorities because if this was translated across the country, we would save about 6.2bn bags. This is equal to 15,000 tonnes of material and 15,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, helping out in the battle against climate change,” he added.

However, Kirkman believes that plastic carrier bags are “just the tip of the iceberg”. He said, “Currently we only receive 50% of all plastic bottles, but if we were to get them all this would save approximately 300,000 tonnes of materials.”

In July this year, Veolia took over the Dagenham facility of former milk bottle recycler Euro Closed Loop Recycling, which went into administration in May. It is able to regenerate all the plastic milk bottles in London into food-grade pellets to make new bottles.

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