At the end of last year, seven of the country’s biggest retailers – Asda, Co-operative, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – pledged to reduce the number of single-use carrier bags used by customers by 50 per cent by the end of May 2009 compared with May 2006.
However, the seven came up just short at 48%.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents the seven, says the reduction has been achieved by retailer initiatives such as the provision of free re-usable bags and a consumer campaign funded by Defra.
Some retailers such as M&S now charge for plastic bags to carry food.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, called the reduction a “spectacular achievement”.
“Changing customer habits on this scale, this quickly, isn’t easy. But it’s a huge testament to customers, who’ve switched to bags for life and cut bag usage,” he says.
The figures have been compiled from the seven participating retailers by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme).