Environmentally friendly (or very stingy?) Brits ditch 5p plastic bags

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The 5p plastic bag charge was introduced last October (Source: Getty)

Britons appear to have taken a big step towards environmental friendliness.

Either that, or we’re a stingy bunch, unashamed of walking out of a supermarket with a cold bottle of milk in one hand, a bag of oranges in the other and a loaf of bread squashed under an armpit.

Let’s assume the former.

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Shoppers are set to take home around six billion fewer single-use plastic bags this year after the introduction of a 5p charge, according to a new government estimate.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) also said that, as a result of the charge, more than £29m has been donated by retailers to charities and community groups.

“Taking six billion plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us – it will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic sat taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites,” said environment minister Therese Coffey.

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“It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.”

The government’s six billion estimate is based on the fact that seven billion carrier bags were issued by seven main retailers in 2014. That figure fell to just over half a billion in the first six months of this year, following the introduction of the 5p fee in October 2015.