U.K. plastic bag use up slightly

July 28, 2011 at 12:34 PM
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LONDON, July 28 (UPI) -- After years of decline, the use of plastic bags by shoppers in the United Kingdom rose in 2010, government authorities said.

Usage had plummeted 40 percent after 2006 when the government, retailers and environmental advocates led a campaign to cut down on the 11 billion plastic bags Britons used annually, The Guardian reported Thursday.

But last year more than 6.8 billion were used, an increase of 5 percent from 2009, the government's Waste and Resources Action Program said.

Part of the increase was probably due to shoppers making more short trips to stores, rather than a single large weekly shopping trip, the British Retail Consortium said.

But the small increase should be considered in the context of the "massive" progress made since 2006, it said.

"It's encouraging to see the majority of consumers are continuing to reuse their carrier bags and are taking as few new bags as possible," Bob Gordon, the consortium's head of environment, said.

"We urge customers to keep that up, particularly when changing shopping habits, including more trips to stores, present a challenge to maintaining the progress made in recent years."

He rejected calls for a total ban or charges for bags, saying it could be a burden for shoppers in difficult financial times.

"The overall numbers remain the sort of result other environmental campaigns can only dream of," he said. "But it's time to accept bags are not the be-all and end-all of environmental issues."

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