In a petty crime spree that should shock the nation, a third of Britons say they steal plastic bags from the tills at supermarkets rather than pay for them.
What started in 2015 as a bid to cut down on plastic pollution, the 5p plastic bag charge has since doubled to 10p, and that’s proved too much for some customers, according to a UK waste recycling company. Some retailers charge even more, usually for more luxurious bags.
A new poll (of 1200) conducted by UK waste experts BusinessWaste.co.uk has revealed that 3 in 10 people admit to pinching carrier bags instead of paying up in a national wave of petty theft.
Company spokesman Mark Hall warns: “People may not like having to pay for them, but you definitely should not be stealing them!
“We’ve heard all sorts of reasons (or should we say ‘excuses’?) from people, and we’re shocked to the very core.”
So why are people stealing plastic bags?
Is it laziness? Forgetfulness? Staunch defiance of the rules? If you answered “all of the above”, you win a carrier bag.
Mark Hall says: “We asked the more light-fingered respondents to our poll to elaborate as to why they don’t bother paying for plastic bags, and it’s fair to say we received an *ahem* mixed bag of responses.”
- “I already have millions under my kitchen sink, and there is absolutely no way any shop is seeing another penny out of me to add to the collection.”
- “I usually bring my trusty tote bag, but on the odd occasion I forget, I don’t see the point in paying for a carrier bag. I’m not the kind of person who uses them much, so I don’t see why it’s fair when I’m already doing my bit by choosing reusable bags most of the time.”
- “My dog destroys all the carrier bags he finds, so I always have to buy new ones. And I’m not being funny but this does add up.”
- “I’m not made of money, and do shops really expect me to juggle my shopping? It’s ridiculous.”
- “I’ll be honest, it gives me a bit of a buzz every time I build up the nerve to just take a plastic bag. Besides it’s not really stealing is it, I mean it’s only 10p here and there. No harm done.”
- “I bet they don’t even cost a penny each to make, so it’s a shameless money-grabbing markup for the shops. Total scam, and it’s almost a victimless crime”
Alex from Reading pays for his plastic bags but does admit that some retailers are taking the mick by charging a small fortune for a bag for life – “I accidentally bought a reusable bag in Waitrose and it was FIVE POUNDS. I’m still furious about this. What’s worse is that I’ve since lost it.”
Well Alex, it pays to be prepared and bring one of the many carrier bags you undoubtedly have stashed away in a cupboard somewhere – but kudos for being a law-abiding citizen!
Turning your forgetfulness into a charitable donation
While 226 million plastic bags are purchased every year in the UK , many retailers have made the decision to scrap selling single-use carrier bags and instead only offer bags of life. That, hopefully, will mean less plastic going to landfill.
But yet again, the price of these bags for life vary depending on which retailer you go to, so see where your shop of choice ranks below:
- Asda – 20p
- Aldi – 25p
- Tesco – 30p
- Sainsbury’s – 30p
- Waitrose – 50p
- Morrisons – 60p
So what happens to all this money collected by shops from plastic bag sales? Is it lining the pockets of some head-honcho in an office?
Actually, for the most part a lot of retailers have set up schemes where the money collected goes to charities, and around £9.2 million pounds a year goes from carrier bag sales to good causes. 
Some retailers donate to national causes, while others let the local branches of their stores decide which local charity will benefit which means that each bag sold can actually make a small difference to your community.
Business Waste’s Mark Hall says “While it’s always better to be prepared and reuse the bags you already have, at least it softens the blow of having to shell out for a bag if you know that the money is going to a good cause.”
“And if you are part of the 30% who have admitting to nicking one, then technically you’re stealing from charity. It is not a victimless crime.”
And you know who else you’re robbing? Mother Earth and her precious resource, that’s who. Have a think about that next time you get itchy fingers in the supermarket.