WRAP publishes new carrier bag use figures

15th July 2014

Data published today by WRAP shows that 8.3 billion thin-gauge* (single-use) bags were used in 2013 by customers of UK supermarkets**.

This represents an increase of 3.2% compared with 2012 (8.1 billion), and a decrease of 32% compared with 2006 (12.2 billion), when reporting began.

The number of thin-gauge (single-use) bags used per month by supermarket customers increased from 10.6*** in 2012 to 10.8 in 2013. This represents a decrease on the 16.7 bags per customer in the baseline year of 2006.

The overall number of bags (which include re-usable bags) issued by supermarkets in 2013 totaled 8.8 billion. This compares to 8.5 billion bags in 2012 and 12.4 billion bags in 2006.

These figures represent an increase of 3.2% between 2012 and 2013, and a reduction of 29% since the baseline year of 2006.

In 2013, total carrier bags (which include re-usable bags) weighed 67,300 tonnes, compared with 70,400 tonnes in 2012, which represents a 4.4% decrease. Overall there has been a 39% decrease in the weight of carrier bags from the baseline year of 2006.

So despite the overall number of bags issued increasing between 2012 and 2013, the weight has fallen, which is due to a fall in the average weight of bags.

There has been a 48% reduction in the amount of virgin polymer used in all carrier bags between the baseline of 2006 and 2013. Between 2012 and 2013 there was a 4.8% increase in virgin polymer used in all carrier bags.

Data on carrier bags issued by supermarkets has been gathered and analysed by WRAP at the request of UK governments on an annual basis since 2006.

In 2013, retailers supplied information about front-of-store recycling of carrier bags. The results show that around 40%**** of stores had recycling facilities available.

Number of bags (millions)

Thin-gauge / single-use bags12,17411,0658,6057,2087,5687,9778,0798,335
Bags for Life245280399362406415408424
All bags12,41911,3469,0047,5707,9748,3928,4878,759


Weight of bags (thousands of tonnes)

Thin-gauge / single-use bags104.896.869.154.056.561.160.256.8
Bags for Life4.97.914.311.611.811.210.210.6
All bags109.8104.783.465.668.372.370.467.3


Breakdown by nation

Thin gauge bags used per capita per month

Bags per person
per month

Northern Irelandn/an/an/an/a8.


Number of thin-gauge carrier bags - (bags by billions)

Northern Ireland0.*****-71%-67%


*Thin-gauge bags constitute 95% of all bags used by supermarket customers

** Participating retailers are: Asda, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd, Tesco and Waitrose.

*** Last year’s figures for bags per capita were based on population data published in 2011. The figures presented in this year’s data set are based on the revised population data from the Office of National Statistics published in November 2013. The figures for bags per capita in previous years have therefore been revised to take into account the latest population data.

**** This data was collected for the first time in 2013 and some stores supplied only data for their larger-format stores. This year, stores also included convenience stores in their returns and this has resulted in the figure for the % of stores with front of store recycling for carrier bags apparently falling from 60% to 40%.
Some retailers specifically commented that most of their larger format stores do have front of store recycling facilities.

***** In April 2013 Northern Ireland introduced a charge for single use carrier bags. The data therefore represents a period when such bags were free for 3 months but charged for 9 months

Notes to editors:

WRAP’s vision is a world where resources are used sustainably. It works in partnership to help businesses, individuals and communities improve resource efficiency.
Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by funding from UK governments.

For more information on WRAP’s carrier bag data, please visit http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/wrap-publishes-new-carrier-bag-use-figures

For information on WRAP visit www.wrap.org.uk and follow us on Twitter at @Wrap_UK


Paul Saville

PR Manager
01295 819638