In recent years, increasing numbers of jurisdictions around the world have taken action to
reduce reliance upon plastic bags. Plastic bag litter has come to symbolise the worst
excesses of a throw-away consumerist society. Since 1977 when the supermarket industry
first distributed plastic bags in the USA, they have been taken up in huge numbers across the
world1. It is estimated that the world consumes 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags every
year2. The plastic bag has been popular because of its extraordinary strength, and its
lightweight properties have kept the cost of production and distribution low whilst making it
versatile for the consumer3. Although the world was introduced to the plastic bag relatively
recently, it is now regarded as essential as a vessel for carrying items across much of the
world. The plastic bag is used daily by a diverse range of people including in urban centres of
developed nations, impoverished towns in developing nations, and remote settlements.
The vast majority of plastic bags in circulation are high density polyethylene (HDPE) bags
with handles commonly referred to as ‘singlet’ plastic bags. They are most commonly
distributed by supermarkets and takeaway outlets. The bag is generally referred to as the
‘single-use’ plastic bag because it is commonly used once only for a short period of time, such
as to transport groceries from the shop to the home4….