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Charities to benefit from Tesco’s withdrawal of single use carrier bags

Howard Lake | 7 August 2017 | News

Tesco is to stop selling single use carrier bags from 28 August, offering a new ‘Bag for Life’. Community groups, which have received funding from sales of carrier bags, will still benefit from funding generated by the new Bag for Life.

The switch from single use carrier bags, which began in May, follows a 10-week trial in Aberdeen, Dundee and Norwich. Tesco reports that sales of bags in the trial stores dropped by 25% and “customers found that the Bag for Life helped them move to re-useable bags.” 

The bag, made from 94% recycled plastic, costs 10p and is replaceable for free if damaged.


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Bags of Help

Community gardening scheme.
A community gardening project funded by Tesco’s Bags of Help initiative.

The new Bag for Life will continue to fund Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme. Delivered with Groundwork, it provides grants local community projects across Great Britain. Tesco customers vote for their favourite local project by picking up a blue token at the checkout each time they shop and awarding it to one of the three groups selected.
Since launching in 2015, Bags of Help has provided more than £33 million to over 6,400 local community projects. The scheme has until now been funded through the levy placed on single-use bags, which have been sold at 5p each.

Community groups and charities can apply for grants of up to £4,000 from Bags of Help and Tesco customers can nominate projects they would like to see receive some cash. 

Further reduction in plastic bags

The carrier bag charge was introduced in England in 2015, and most supermarkets have introduced a charity scheme to benefit from the income raised through sales of single-use plastic carrier bags. 

Since then Tesco has given out 1.5 billion fewer single use bags. It still, however, sells over 700 million of each year. The switch to a reusable bag is designed to reduce this number further.

Single use carrier bags will remain available for online customers, if they wish. However, 57% of them already opt for a bagless delivery.

Matt Davies, UK and ROI CEO at Tesco, said: “The number of bags being bought by our customers has already reduced dramatically. Today’s move will help our customers use even fewer bags but ensure that those sold in our stores continue to fund thousands of community projects across the country chosen by customers. It’s the right thing to do for the environment and for local communities.”

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey welcomed Tesco’s move, noting: “Since we introduced the 5p charge in 2015, the number of single-use plastic bags taken home has plummeted by 83%… The switch to a Bag for Life will continue to help reduce litter and boost recycling – helping to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”

Fewer plastic bags, more for Tesco, and local communities?

Andy Brian, head of retail at specialist law firm Gordons, said: “This is the latest move by the UK’s major supermarkets to remove the five pence carrier bag from sale in favour of the generally more expensive ‘bag for life’, with Tesco following in the footsteps of Sainsbury’s.

“The way it has been presented by the supermarket is that it will encourage consumers either to reuse carrier bags, which they have previously purchased, or to use bags for life on a regular basis. There will undoubtedly be concern that the removal for sale of the five pence carrier bag will reduce the money going to community projects and charitable causes, and instead enable the supermarket to increase profitable revenue through bag for life sales.

“However, Tesco has said that it will continue to make donations to local community projects from the money generated by bags for life sales, with the ultimate aim of reducing the environmental impact of plastic carrier bag usage.”

Fiona Cincotta, market analyst at City Index, added:

“This removal of 5p carrier bags in-store will definitely help customers cut down on the unnecessary purchase and litter. It is the right thing to do both for the community and the environment. However, over time consumers could end up spending more money by purchasing the 10p carrier bag if they continue to be forgetful when heading out for their shopping. This move could be great for the community and charity as sales for the more expensive “Bags for Life” help fund community projects”.