Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

In 2015 research was completed to gain an understanding of the types and proportions of carrier bags and containers being used by a representative sample of English consumers and some indications of their behaviour towards their use of carrier bags.

This research provides information on the factors influencing consumer bag use. Food shopping, as opposed to other types of shopping, was the main focus of this research.


The research findings supplement a previous study in 2014 carried out by WRAP to understand consumer bag usage and attitudes in England. The 2014 behavioural study focussed on respondents’ claimed behaviour whilst this observational study looks at observed in-store usage of bags and containers. It also reflects the work completed in Scotland prior to the introduction of the Scottish carrier bag charge in October 2014.

Among the findings of the research were:

  • Regardless of business size around 70% of all bags or containers used to pack purchased items were new single use carrier bags.
  • Re-used bags and containers made up 26% of all bags or containers used.
  • 4% comprised of other new bags or containers.
  • The different types of bags and containers used are very similar to those reported for Scotland prior to the introduction of their carrier bag charge in 2014.
  • 66% of observed grocery transactions resulted in the use of new single use carrier bags compared to 42% of consumers stating that they ‘always’ or ‘usually’ take single use carrier bags from the till when doing their main food shopping.
  • Consumers did not actively plan to bring their own bags or containers on their shopping trips. Consumers who did plan to bring their own bags or containers were more likely to do it for main shopping trips.
  • Transactions in non-grocery stores were more likely to result in usage of new single use carrier bags usually due to consumers not having their own bags to hand.
  • Store interventions were also a factor in new single use carrier bag usage. Packing by store staff was more likely to result in the use of new single use carrier bags.

The full report can be found here