UK Cuts Plastic Bag Consumption 90 Percent, Number of Bags in Ocean by Half

England’s 5-cent tax has cut plastic bag consumption by 90 percent and the number of plastic bags in surrounding seas by half.

One way to remind shoppers to bring their own bags is to charge them for plastic bags.

Five cents isn’t a heavy price to pay if you forget your reusable bags, but it’s just enough to remind you that the environmental cost of disposing non-recyclable plastic bags is enormous.

While many Americans are opposed to any strategy containing the word “tax,” this one seems reasonable… and super effective.

In just over two years since the UK passed it, major grocery chains report an 86 percent reduction in plastic bag consumption.

Prior to the ban, the average British consumer brought home 140 plastic bags per year. Now they take home only 19.

And, the number of plastic bags floating around England’s shoreline has been cut in half, according to a study by the Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.

“Since efforts from across Europe came into effect, including the UK’s 5p charge, we have observed a sharp decline in the percentage of plastic bags captured by fishing nets on our trawl surveys of the seafloor around the UK as compared to 2010,”  said the agency’s marine litter scientist Thomas Maes.

Washington D.C. saw a similar drop in plastic bag consumption when it introduced a 5-cent tax in 2010.