Sales of bin liners go up in response to become the strongest-growing household category

According to the latest figures from IRI, a leading provider of FMCG market intelligence and predictive, actionable insight, government targets to reduce the number of plastic bags used by shoppers has not only been met, but exceeded. A price levy of 5p per bag came into force in England last October, following similar charges enforced some time ago in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Previously, supermarkets gave away the bags for free.

Whilst the introduction of the levy saw sales of “5p levy” plastic single use bags increase from 138 million units (52 weeks to 12 Oct 2015) to 1.1 billion (52 weeks to 10 Oct 2016), an additional 985 million bags, this is a significant drop from the 8.5 billion bags reportedly given away free by supermarkets in England, Scotland and Wales in 2014. The number of shopping bags overall, including ‘bags for life’, increased from 258 million to 1.7 billion, an additional 1.4 billion bags. Supermarket value sales of plastic and fabric shopping bags increased from £50 million to £147 million, with much of this additional £97 million of revenue going to charity.

“While it still appears that large volumes of plastic bags are being used by shoppers, the Government’s target of an 80% reduction in plastic bag production was easily met,” according to IRI’s Head of Strategic Insight for Retail, Martin Wood. “The total of 1.1 billion single use bags in 2015/16 is just 13.2% of the 8.5 billion figure, so close to a 90% drop, which is astonishing.”

While sales of natural fabric bags, such as cotton, jute and Jaco, grew by 23% in value, these only account for a fraction (under 1 million) of the additional bags sold. According to IRI’s Retail Advantage, which measures supermarket value and volume sales data, the biggest growth came from woven/plastic bags, which sold an additional 431 million bags.

More surprising was a clear growth in sales of bin liners, following the price levy, up from £156 million to £169 million in value sales, a rise of 8.25%, and up 11.3% in volume sales to 90 million packs (52 weeks to 1 October 2016) – at a time when most household categories are in decline.

IRI’s Wood, adds: “The correlating growth in the bin liner category suggests that some people who previously used free plastic bags for collecting and disposing of their rubbish are now having to buy bin liners instead!”

According to IRI data, the average price per bag paid came down across all types of multi-use bags, except insulated bags, which went up from £1.24 to £1.50/bag.

Notes for editors:
IRI’s shopping bag analysis (52 weeks to 12 October 2015 and 5 weeks to 10 October 2016)

  Value Sales £Million Unit Sales Millions Avg Unit Price
SUMMARY 52 weeks to 12 Oct 2015 52 weeks to 10 Oct 2016 52 weeks to 12 Oct 2015 52 weeks to 10 Oct 2016 52 weeks to 12 Oct 2015 52 weeks to 10 Oct 2016
Total Natural Fabric £5.1 £6.2 2.1 2.8 2.36 2.20 23.5% £1.19 0.7
Total Insulated £2.9 £4.5 2.3 3.0 1.24 1.50 58.7% £1.68 0.7
Total Other Woven £4.3 £9.9 5.7 17.1 0.75 0.58 130.0% £5.59 11.4
Total Other Plastic Reusable £30.6 £70.3 109.6 529.5 0.28 0.13 130.1% £39.77 420
Total Reusable £42.8 £91.0 119.8 552.4 0.36 0.16 112.7% £48.23 433
Total ‘paid for’ plastic single use bags £6.9 £56.1 138.2 1122.9 0.05 0.05 712.3% £49.23 985
Total individual shopping bags £49.7 £147.1 258.0 1675.3 0.19 0.09 196.2% £97.46 1,417
About IRI:

IRI is a leading provider of big data, predictive analytics and forward-looking insights that help FMCG, OTC health care, retailers and media companies to grow. With the largest repository of purchase, media, social, causal and loyalty data, all integrated on an on-demand cloud-based technology platform, IRI guides over 5,000 clients globally in their quests to remain relentlessly relevant, capture market share, connect with consumers and deliver growth. www.IRIworldwide.comFollow IRI on Twitter.

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