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Charities waste millions of plastic collection bags every year, claims recycling company

Charities waste millions of plastic collection bags every year, claims recycling company

Over 500,000 plastic charity bags are thrown away unused, according to waste and recycling company BusinessWaste. The company wants charities to restrict the practice of giving out plastic bags for doorstep donations.‘s Recycling Director Mark Hall said: “The problem with these bags is their convenience. As a call to action they’re reasonably effective for the charities involved, but in terms of waste, they’re horrendous.

“If charities and their agents are unable to find a better solution, we call on government to consider a ban.”

The scale of the problem

Referring to statistics collated by one charity bags website, Businesswaste says that “60% of the UK’s households receive an average of 25 charity bags per year”.

Overall 525,000,000 bags are delivered across Britain annually, or 2,625 tonnes of them. Yet only 3% of bags are filled and left out on collection day. As a result, 509 million bags or over 2,500 tonnes are not used for their intended purpose.

Hall added: “That figure is just for a single year. There must be billions of these bags either filling up kitchen cupboards or going straight into landfill. Something has to be done to stop this tide of waste.”

An alternative approach?

BusinessWaste suggests the charities consider:

  • Using more bio-degradable bags, or US-style paper sacks
  • Deliver leaflets or sticky labels to encourage households to use their own bags and boxes
  • Encourage alternative means of making a donation

In addition, the general public can help by:

  • Putting up a sign asking charities not to leave bags
  • Leaving empty bags on your doorstep to be reused
  • Making donations direct to charity shops or recycling bins

BusinessWaste has previously called upon authorities in England to follow the examples of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to introduce charges for supermarket carrier bags and reduce the massive waste and environmental damage they cause. It recognises that its message to charities could generate opposition given the income that bring.

But Hall is adamant: “In their attempts at doing good, charities are also inadvertently doing the environment no favours. Something’s got to be done.”



Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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