Drop in plastic bags in Britain’s seas linked to 5p charge

Lucy Purdy

An estimated 30 per cent drop in the number of plastic bags littering seabeds around Britain has been connected to the introduction of charges for plastic bags across Europe

A significant drop in the plastic bags being found in the seas around Britain has been linked to the introduction of charges for plastic bags in Britain and Europe.

Scientists have announced an estimated 30 per cent reduction in plastic bags on seabeds in an area they studied – a patch stretching from the Norwegian and German coasts, to northern France and west to Ireland.

Ireland and Denmark introduced levies for plastic bags in shops in 2003, and a host of other European countries followed suit. England introduced a charge in 2015.

The authors of the study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, say that the drop in plastic bag pollution, which they measured from 2010 – around the mid-point of when such charges came into force – demonstrated the powerful potential of such levies.

This research suggests that by working together we can reduce, reuse and recycle to tackle the marine litter problem

Thomas Maes, marine litter scientist at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, and lead author of the paper said: “It is encouraging to see that efforts by all of society, whether the public, industry, NGOs or government to reduce plastic bags are having an effect.

“We observed sharp declines in the percentage of plastic bags as captured by fishing nets trawling the seafloor around the UK compared to 2010 and this research suggests that by working together we can reduce, reuse and recycle to tackle the marine litter problem.”

Featured image: Studland Beach in Dorset, Nick Fewings


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