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Growing numbers of shoppers are choosing to buy a single use 5p carrier bag instead of reusing bags – so community retailer Lincolnshire Co-op is highlighting the issue to consumers over coming months.

Lincolnshire Co-op runs 86 food stores and filling stations. When the carrier bag charge was introduced in October 2015, the number of single use carrier bags given out dropped significantly. There were 62.4m issued in 2014, which fell to 48.8m in 2015. This figure plunged even further to just 3m in 2016.

However, last year, the number increased by over 660,000, making it just under 3.7m sold.

Lincolnshire Co-op aims to give out 10,000 foldable reusable bags this year to make it easier for people to have a bag with them when they need it.  

Colleagues will be giving away the free foldable bags at shows and events. In return, people will be asked to take a pledge to use fewer plastic bags in the future. The number of pledges will be totted up through a totalizer display.

Each of Lincolnshire Co-op’s 2,800 colleagues will also receive a bag. And the Society will be subsidising the sale of the foldable reusable bags, which cost £1, with a buy one, get one free offer in food stores.

Chief Retail Officer Mark Finn said: “There was a huge drop in the number of single use carrier bags sold after the 5p charge was introduced. We are still issuing a massively reduced number which is good news. 

“However, we’ve noticed that the sale of single use carrier bags is gradually creeping up again in our food stores. We want to look after our local environment and felt this was an issue we could highlight to our customers and members so that together, we can all act and reduce the number being sold.

“There’s lots of reasons for the increase. We have welcomed more people through our doors during that time, but also, anecdotally our colleagues say that more customers are forgetting their bags for a million and one different reasons or have got used to paying the 5p charge.

“We hope that people will see these figures and consider whether they really need a single use carrier bag when they’re shopping and make a conscious effort to carry around a foldable bag more regularly. 

“We’re aiming to give away 10,000 foldable reusable bags at county events and shows and we’re also subsidising the sale of the bags in our food stores, offering 2 for 1 – one for your bag, another for your car.”

Proceeds from the 5p single use carrier bags and all other bags go towards Lincolnshire Co-op’s Community Champions fundraising. Last year, the sales of them contributed to the £663,000 of support given to local charities including hospices, organisations supporting homeless people, green spaces and community groups.

In each Lincolnshire Co-op food store, a range of bags are available including the 5p single use carrier bags, 10p plastic bags for life, £1 foldable reusable bags and 4-bottle carrier, also £1.

Mr Finn said it was important to offer customers a range of choices in Lincolnshire Co-op’s food stores.

“We are a convenience retailer and so, often, people may not have planned a visit to their local co-op. They might be just popping in for lunch or something for dinner that night,” he said. 

“Some of the big supermarkets have taken the decision to stop selling single use bags. However, these tend to be planned destinations for a big shop, the type of trip where you pack the car boot full of bags. We’re a different type of shopping destination so currently, we don’t think it’s right for us or our customers to stop selling single use bags because we want to offer them a choice. 

“What we’re doing is highlighting the issue so our customers can make an informed decision and hopefully, consider their use of carrier bags.”

Carrier Bag Graph