FOOD shops have seen a 96 per cent drop in the use of plastic bags since the 5p charge was introduced in Wales, new figures show.

Research also indicates the charge is now supported by 70 per cent of Welsh residents.

Figures provided by shop owners to the British Retail Consortium along with behavioural research done by Cardiff University, showed the number of shoppers who used their own bags on their last supermarket visit rose from 61 per cent in September 2011 to 82 per cent in April this year.

It also found that support for the charge rose from 59 per cent to 70 per cent in the six months since it came into force in October 2011, while opposition to the move dropped to 17 per cent.

Clothes shops saw a 75 per cent reduction in carrier bag use, home improvement stores reported a 95 per cent drop and food service retailers have seen a 45 per cent reduction over the same period.

Since its introduction retailers have passed on the proceeds from the bag charge to environmental projects and other good causes, and so far Keep Wales Tidy has received more than £105,000 as a direct result of the 5p charge.

Environment minister John Griffiths said the Welsh public had adjusted brilliantly to the charge.

He said: “Not only that but the research suggests that 70 per cent of people in Wales are now fully supportive of the charge and of the changes we are trying secure in terms of litter reduction and behaviour change. I would like to thank retailers and shoppers for their ongoing help in making this policy – the first of its kind in the UK – a success.”

The Welsh government worked with shops and the British Retail Consortium to collect the figures, only accepting them from companies which had collected data on bag use before the charge coming into force.

The final sample came from firms including Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer.

Reaction to the 5p bag charge

THE Argus spoke to shoppers in Newport city centre yesterday to see what they thought of the carrier bags charge.

South Wales Argus: From top left, clockwise; Elizabeth Wheeler, Michelle Pugh, Lee Morris, Jonathan Hughes, Nikolina Nikolic and Jessica Sydenham

YOUR THOUGHTS: From top left, clockwise; Elizabeth Wheeler, Michelle Pugh, Lee Morris, Jonathan Hughes, Nikolina Nikolic and Jessica Sydenham

● Elizabeth Wheeler, 43, from Caldicot, said: “I think it’s ridiculous considering the amount of money we spend in the shops. I’ve always thought it was ridiculous since it came it. I try to remember to take them with me. It’s a nightmare.”

● Michelle Pugh, 45, from Newport, said: “I think it’s fair.

I am more organised for food shopping but usually forget to bring bags with me when I go shopping ad hoc. It’s good for the environment it’s just me that needs to be more organised.”

● Lee Morris, 23, from Cwmbran, said: “I’m in the Territorial Army and always forget when I come back. I think it’s a good thing. I hope it is good for the environment – we all want a better life.”

● Jessica Sydenham, 19, from Bassaleg, said: “If I go clothes shopping I might bring a bag with me but I always take my own bags to the supermarket. The system is OK, it’s not exactly ideal. I don’t mind.”

● Nikolina Nikolic, 18, from Newport, said: “I never bring carrier bags with me. I don’t mind, it’s only 5p, I’m quite happy to spend the money.”

● Jonathan Hughes, from Newport, said: “I always forget to bring bags with me - I remember once in a blue moon. It is a pain to be honest.

I think it should be scrapped. If the money does go to charity then I might think differently.”

We also spoke to traders.

● Maisie Hicks, of Freestyle skateboard shop in Newport, said customers have generally accepted the bag charge.

● Nigel Merett, owner of Arnold’s lighting shop, in the city’s Skinner Street, said most shoppers were well prepared and bring their own bags.

● Kerrie Derrick, of Fun Factory fancy dress shop in Newport, said: “People always complain, they absolutely hate it. They think for food shopping it’s fine but they think if you’re buying clothes or costumes like with us they want a bag.”

● Simon Poultney, deputy manager at Newport’s Cash Generator, said people are generally unhappy about paying the charge, but the shop now uses far fewer bags than before.

● Sally Ford, of Wildings department store, Newport, said there was some resistance from customers at first but now most people bring their own bags.

● Welsh Retail Consortium spokeswoman Sarah Cordey said figures showing fewer bags used were no surprise, but said retailers were doing much more to reduce the carbon footprint of thousands of products.

● Iestyn Davies, head of external affairs for the Federation of Small Businesses, said the changes were fairly well embedded in businesses’ daily operations and have resulted in a clear reduction in their bag usage.