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Final report

Carrier bags usage and attitudes:


Consumer research in England

In February 2014, WRAP commissioned qualitative discussion groups and


a consumer survey in England to explore current stated behaviours and
attitudes around carrier bag usage, biodegradable bags and levels of
support and/or concern for the single use plastic bag charge due to be
introduced in England in October 2015.

Project code: RAK013-001


Research date: February to March 2014

Date: August 2014

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WRAP, 2014, London, Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in
England, Prepared by Brook Lyndhurst.

Written by: Sara Giorgi, Associate Director, and Orlando Hughes, Senior Researcher, at
Brook Lyndhurst

Front cover photography: Man carrying groceries in transparent plastic carrier bag. Source: iStock
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Executive summary
Background and aims
WRAP commissioned consumer research on behalf of Defra in February 2014, with the aim
of better assessing how a charge on single use plastic carrier bags may influence attitudes
and behaviours towards bag use in England and how best to communicate the charge.
This research was conducted in the context of the proposed introduction of a 5p charge for
single use plastic carrier bags in England from October 2015, as well as work to develop
standards for biodegradable bags. The research will help to inform the implementation of the
charge (including how it is communicated to consumers), what the state of public opinion is
regarding the charge and, what the factors are currently influencing consumer bag use. Food
shopping, as opposed to other types of shopping, was the main focus of this research.
This study addressed these research questions:
What are the stated attitudes and behaviours among people in England concerning the
use and re-use of carrier bags and Bags for Life, carrier bag litter and disposal of plastic
bags?
What are the levels of awareness, understanding and expectations of biodegradable
bags?
What are peoples attitudes towards the forthcoming charge and where it may be applied?
What narratives and messages may act as effective motivators to engage the public with
the new scheme? Do these vary for particular groups of people?
Methodology and limitations
This study had two main research phases: qualitative discussion groups and a quantitative
online survey. The first phase of the research comprised eight discussion groups with 77
participants, in four locations in England, split by social grade. Focus groups are best used to
understand why some people act or feel a particular way rather than to provide findings that
can be extrapolated to a wider population. The second phase of the research utilised a
sample of people selected from an online panel who were interviewed using computerassisted web interviewing (CAWI). Quotas were set for region, social grade, age and gender
to align these characteristics to the known profiles for England. The achieved sample was
1,538 and further details are described in the report.
There are primarily two limitations to be aware of when interpreting the quantitative phase
of the research. The first is that the research findings on behaviours (as opposed to
attitudes) are based on claimed behaviour (i.e. how respondents replied in the online survey)
rather than observed behaviour. It is well known that claimed and actual behaviour can
differ, especially for socially desirable behaviours. This report draws on a previous study on
carrier bag use in Wales and Scotland that included methodologies that captured both stated
and observed behaviours. The findings from this study have been used to suggest how
claimed behaviour in the England study can be interpreted. This is outlined in Section 1.4.
Using an online survey as opposed to a telephone or face to face method (which creates less
social desirability bias as the respondent is interfacing with a computer rather than a human
being) and use of check questions in the survey, increases the ability to interpret these
findings accurately. The qualitative groups also improve our interpretation of the survey
findings, by increasing our confidence in the cause and effect relationship between areas the
survey covers; sometimes called internal validity1.
1

http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/intval.php and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_validity

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

The second limitation is that the composition of an online panel from which a sample is
drawn, can differ from the general population. This research achieved a sample by using
quotas so that the achieved sample reflects known key demographics of England as outlined
above. This should help to correct any biases caused by the population of possible
respondents differing from the general population of England in these respects. Nonetheless,
it is possible that the sample differs in some other way, such as attitudinally, and it is not
possible to asses or correct for such biases. Therefore, the external validity (the extent to
which the findings reflect the views of the population of England as a whole) is difficult to
calculate. Research suggests that unless the research topic is technologically oriented (which
carrier bags is not) that online panel samples can give external validity that is similar to faceto-face methods2.
Findings
The types of bags available to consumers for food shopping are varied and the combination
of bag type used is often the result of a complex mixture of attitudes, behaviours and habits.
In this context, around two in five of the respondents from the online panel (43%) stated
they used new plastic carrier bags for some of their purchases the last time they went food
shopping. Similarly, around two in five respondents (45%) stated they re-used bags for life
for some of their food shopping. In terms of a baseline of behaviours and attitudes, this
research found that respondents are likely3 to have under-claimed their use of single use
plastic carrier bags and over-claimed the use of their own bags or bags for life when food
shopping.
On occasions where respondents do not take new plastic carrier bags at the till,
environmental motivations were most frequently cited as reasons, with practical
considerations (particularly bag strength) also featuring highly. Over half of respondents
from the online panel stated that forgetting their own bags is the reason that they do not
always use them and so they resort to using new single use plastic carrier bags.
Almost three-fifths of respondents from the online panel supported a proposed 5p charge on
plastic carrier bags. Encouraging bag re-use and use of bags for life are seen by respondents
as the key potential behavioural impacts of the charge. The perceived environmental benefit
of the charge (such as reducing carrier bag litter) was the benefit that the research found
had most traction with the public.
Younger consumers (under the age of 34), and those that tend to do top-up shops regularly,
are segments of the population that this research suggests may be less supportive of the
charge. The most receptive groups were found to be men over 65; women over 45; and
social grades A and B. This more receptive group were also more like to be very aware of
the charge coming into force in England, which may suggest that communication methods
and media that had previously informed the public of the charge would continue to be
effective amongst this group.

Comparing data from online and face-to-face surveys, International Journal of Market Research Vol. 47 Issue 6.

This assumption is based on comparisons with a study on carrier bag use in Wales and Scotland by Exodus Market Research
for Welsh Government and Zero Waste Scotland (2013). Consumer behavioural study on the use and re-use of carrier bags
3
This assumption is based on comparisons with a study on carrier bag use in Wales and Scotland by Exodus Market Research
2012.
for
Welsh Government and Zero Waste Scotland (2013). Consumer behavioural study on the use and re-use of carrier bags
http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carrier%20bag%20behavioural%20report_SCOTLAND_FINAL%20V5%20
2012.
http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carrier%20bag%20behavioural%20report_SCOTLAND_FINAL%20V5%20
18%207%2013%20v3.pdf and http://wales.gov.uk/docs/desh/publications/130903behaviour-study-on-carrier-bags-reporten.pdf

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

The research explored consumers understanding of biodegradability and their reactions to a


potential future exemption of biodegradable bags from the charge. There was some
understanding among both discussion group participants and survey respondents that a
biodegradable bag should break down naturally, without harming the environment and/or
faster than normal plastic carrier bags. Participants in the discussion groups stated that they
would use a wide variety of disposal routes for a bag labelled as biodegradable: most
frequent responses included using it as a bin liner; putting it in the recycling; and using it as
a liner for the food waste caddy. Some participants said they would feel less guilty about
taking a new plastic bag at the till if they knew it was biodegradable. The survey results
showed high levels of support for a future exemption of biodegradable bags, with 81%
saying it was fair4. However, opinion in the discussion groups was more mixed, with some
participants arguing that biodegradable bags were still plastic and therefore should not be
exempt; however others felt that an exemption would be acceptable on the condition that
the bags broke down within a pre-defined time period.
Survey respondents were also asked for their views on exemptions from the 5p charge for
smaller and medium retailers, and paper bags. Three in five survey respondents found the
exemption of smaller and medium retailers confusing (59%) and there was a general
feeling in the discussion groups that the charge should apply to all retailers in order to
further reduce the number of single use plastic bags overall. However there was also some
understanding of the benefits of avoiding placing additional burdens on small businesses. .
The exclusion of paper bags from the charge seemed to make the most sense of all
exemptions that were explored in the research, with four in five survey respondents finding
the exemption clear (82%), expected (79%) and fair (80%). Discussion group
participants referred to paper bags as environmentally friendly, natural and recyclable.
Discussion group participants suggested a range of media, alongside in-store
communications, that would be effective channels for communicating the introduction of the
charge. Some specific suggestions included having in-store stands that would provide
customers with more information on both the rationale behind the charge and the goals it
hoped to achieve (e.g. posters, leaflets, case studies, etc.). Prompts placed in car parks and
at front-of-store reminding customers of the charge coming into force and to bring their own
bags were other ideas suggested.

When given the option between fair and unfair

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

Contents
1.0

Introduction ................................................................................................. 8
1.1
Context ..................................................................................................... 8
1.2
Research methodology ............................................................................... 9
1.3
Report structure....................................................................................... 15
1.4
Under-claim and over-claim of types of bag used ........................................ 15
2.0 Food shopping behaviours .......................................................................... 17
2.1
Food shopping profile ............................................................................... 17
2.2
Online shopping ....................................................................................... 18
2.3
Types of bags used .................................................................................. 18
3.0 Plastic carrier bag use for food shopping ................................................... 20
3.1
Initial views ............................................................................................. 20
3.2
Frequency of use ..................................................................................... 20
3.3
Attitudes: Motivations and barriers ............................................................ 22
3.4
Behaviours: Storage and disposal .............................................................. 23
3.5
Plastic carrier bag litter ............................................................................. 24
4.0 Bags for life and other bag use for food shopping ...................................... 26
4.1
Initial views ............................................................................................. 26
4.2
Frequency of use ..................................................................................... 28
4.3
Attitudes: Motivations and barriers ............................................................ 30
4.4
Behaviours: Storage and disposal ............................................................. 31
5.0 Bag use for non-food shopping................................................................... 33
6.0 Biodegradable bags .................................................................................... 36
6.1
Initial views ............................................................................................. 36
6.2
Attitudes and expectations ........................................................................ 37
6.3
Disposal avenues ..................................................................................... 40
6.4
Suggestions for identifying biodegradable bags........................................... 41
7.0 Views on plastic carrier bag charge ............................................................ 42
7.1
General awareness and initial reactions ...................................................... 42
7.2
Potential impacts on shopping behaviours .................................................. 44
7.3
Level of support and concern .................................................................... 47
7.4
Exemptions from the scope of the charge .................................................. 49
7.5
Communications ...................................................................................... 52
8.0 Concluding remarks .................................................................................... 53
Annex 1: Topic guide for discussion groups ......................................................... 55
Annex 2: Top line questionnaire results ............................................................... 63
Annex 3: Under-claim and over-claim of types of bags used ............................... 80
Annex 4: Recruitment specification for discussion groups ................................... 86
Annex 5: Sampling framework ............................................................................. 91
Annex 6: Peer review statement. 91

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

Glossary
Bags for life - Defined in the questionnaire as: reusable shopping bags bought by

shoppers from supermarkets. They come in a range of colours and designs and are often
made from fabric such as canvas, woven synthetic fibres, or a thick plastic that is more
durable than disposable plastic carrier bags, so they can be used lots of times. It is worth

noting that discussion group participants did not make a consistent distinction between
budget bag for life and bags for life. These terms are, at times, abbreviated to BfL.

Biodegradable bags This term was not defined in the questionnaire or in discussion

groups. Participants and respondents were invited to explain their own understanding of
the term and these are discussed in Section 6.1. These definitions and discussions do not
relate to industrys definition or to any particular standard, they are definitions that
participants and respondents developed of their own accord.
Budget bag for life - Defined in the questionnaire as: reusable shopping bags bought
by shoppers from supermarkets. They are also made of plastic but are thicker and
stronger than plastic carrier bags. These bags tend to cost between 5p and 12p.
Own bags or containers - Defined in the questionnaire as: bags or containers owned
by shoppers which are designed to be used lots of times and include items such as
handbags, cloth bags, rucksacks, foldable bags, crates, shopping trolleys etc. It is worth

noting that discussion group participants often referred to certain own bags (e.g. canvas
bags, jute bags, cloth bags, etc.) as bags for life.

Plastic carrier bags - Defined in the questionnaire as: bags provided at the till of shops

for free. They are made wholly or mainly of plastic film and are not specifically made to
be used lots of times. This type of bag is, at times, also referred to as single use carrier

bag (SUCB).

Thin-gauge carrier bags: This term is not one that this research used, however, when

drawing from other research in this report, thin-gauge carrier bags are defined as all
paper bags (of any thickness) and polyethylene bags of a thickness of less than 25
microns. This is consistent with WRAPs reporting of carrier-bag use within the grocery
sector.

Acknowledgements
With particular thanks to the Brook Lyndhurst research team: Jayne Cox, Michael Fernandez,
Sara Giorgi, and Orlando Hughes.
WRAP wishes to also thank the qualitative recruitment agency, Criteria, and ICM Research
for conducting the quantitative fieldwork and Dr Elaine Kerrell who independently peer
reviewed the research from design stage to report completion.
Both WRAP and Brook Lyndhurst are grateful for the time given and input made by
participants in the discussion groups and respondents to the survey.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

1.0

Introduction

1.1
Context
This research was conducted in the context of the proposed introduction of a 5p charge for
plastic single use carrier bags in England from October 2015, as well as work to develop
standards for biodegradable bags.
In order to better assess how the charge may influence attitudes and behaviours towards
bag use in England5, in February 2014, WRAP commissioned this programme of consumer
research on behalf of Defra. The research will help to inform the implementation of the
charge and how it is communicated to consumers, by providing further information on the
public opinion of a charge and what currently influences consumer bag use.
The experience in other countries who have introduced a charge on carrier bags, namely Ireland, Wales and most recently Northern Ireland, suggests that a significant fall in the
supply of single use carrier bags to consumers can be expected6 alongside a reduction in
litter.7
In Wales for example, where a carrier bag charge was introduced in October 2011, 284
million fewer thin-gauge carrier bags8 (for seven grocery retailers) were supplied when
comparing 2010 and 2012, this amounts to an 81% reduction.9 Public support for the policy
was generally high in Wales and tended to increase upon its introduction.10
In the Republic of Ireland a 0.15 levy on previously freely provided plastic shopping bags
was introduced in 2002. An initial reduction of 94% in the number of plastic bags was
reported.11 By 2007, however, consumption had risen to about 9% of the pre-levy level. This
increase can be attributed to the initial shock effect of the levy wearing off, rising material
consumption and a decrease in the real price of a 0.15 levy due to inflation. This prompted
an increase of the levy to 0.22.12 In Ireland, part of the rationale for the levy was litter
reduction. It was felt that plastic bags were a very visible and persistent component of litter,
even though they only constituted a small fraction of total litter. Survey research and litter
monitoring would suggest that the landscape impact of plastic bag litter has improved.13
In both Ireland and Wales, research has shown that the charge can lead to some unintended
consequences - notably the increased consumption of bin liners and of heavier plastic bags

In England in 2012, based on data from seven individual retailers provided to WRAP as part of the UK Voluntary Carrier Bag
monitoring, 7.06 billion thin-gauge carrier bags were distributed. This amounts to 11 bags per person per month. For further
information see: WRAP (July 2013). UK Voluntary Carrier Bag Monitoring 2013.
http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carrier%20bags%20results%20%282012%20data%29.pdf WRAP has released data
on carrier bag use in 2013 since this report was written, this can be found here: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/wrappublishes-new-carrier-bag-use-figures-0
6
WRAP (2013). Effect of charging for carrier bags on bin-bag sales in Wales.
http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Effect%20of%20charging%20for%20carrier%20bags%20on%20binbag%20sales%20in%20Wales.pdf
7
Convert, McDonnell, Ferreira (2007). The most popular tax in Europe? Lessons from the Irish plastic bags levy. Environ
Resource Econ 38:1-11.
8
See glossary.
9
WRAP (2013). Effect of charging for carrier bags on bin-bag sales in Wales.
http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Effect%20of%20charging%20for%20carrier%20bags%20on%20binbag%20sales%20in%20Wales.pdf
10
Poortinga, Whitmarsh, Suffolk (2013). The introduction of a single-use carrier bag charge in Wales: attitude change and
behavioural spill over effects. Journal of Environmental Psychology 35: 240-247.
11
Convert, McDonnell, Ferreira (2007). The most popular tax in Europe? Lessons from the Irish plastic bags levy. Environ
Resource Econ 38:1-11.
12
Ibid.
13
Ibid.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

for life.14 It is known, however, that in Wales the increase in pedal-bin and swing-bin liner
sales was small compared to the reduction in thin-gauge carrier bags.15 It is worth noting
that the exemptions cover different types of bags in the countries in question. In Ireland the
charge covers most plastic bags16 including bags labelled as biodegradable but excludes
paper bags. In Northern Ireland and Wales, however, paper bags (as well as plastic and
plant based material such as starch) were included in the charge.17
In late 2012, Exodus Market Research was commissioned by both the Welsh Government
and Zero Waste Scotland to carry out a telephone survey and in-store observational work in
Wales and Scotland. For Wales (post implementation of the charge), the research was
designed to assess how the charge had influenced consumer behaviour and sought to
identify barriers that might limit the effectiveness of the charge. For Scotland (preimplementation of the charge), the aim was to understand current consumer behaviour prior
to any introduction of such a charge. In this report the Exodus research is at times used as a
comparison to some of the findings in this research it is referenced as the Exodus
research.18
Defra recognises that there will always be a need for some form of bag when shopping, and
that consumers will not always have a bag with them available for re-use (e.g. for
impulse/un-planned shopping). With this in mind, Defra is looking to develop standards with
industry for a biodegradable bag that has fewer environmental impacts across its life cycle;
not just its end of life impacts. As biodegradable bags are not consistently exempt from
charges on carrier bags in other countries, this research attempts to unpick consumer
understanding of biodegradability, what consumers would expect a biodegradable bag to be
like, and their thoughts on the proposed exemption. Previous research by Brook Lyndhurst
for WRAP on biopolymers highlighted the substantial confusion around the meaning of the
term biodegradable and its relation to other terms such as degradable and
compostable.19
1.2
Research methodology
This study addressed the following research questions:
What are the stated attitudes and behaviours among people in England concerning the
use and re-use of carrier bags and Bags for Life, carrier bag litter and disposal of plastic
bags?
What are the levels of awareness, understanding and expectations of biodegradable
bags?
What are peoples attitudes towards the forthcoming charge and where it may be applied?
What narratives and messages may act as effective motivators to engage the public with
the new scheme? Do these vary for particular groups of people?

14

WRAP (2013). Effect of charging for carrier bags on bin-bag sales in Wales.
http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Effect%20of%20charging%20for%20carrier%20bags%20on%20binbag%20sales%20in%20Wales.pdf
15
Ibid. An estimated 11.1 million extra liners weighing 80 tonnes were sold in 2012. To put these figures in context, for the
82% of the grocery sector sharing carrier-bag data with WRAP, 284 million fewer thin-gauge carrier bags (2,129 tonnes) were
sold in 2012 compared to 2010.
16
There were exemptions for a range of plastic bags including small bags used for fresh meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and
reusable bags sold for 0.70 Euro or more. For more information see: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2001/en/si/0605.html and
http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Waste/PlasticBags/
17
For more information see http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/carrier-bag-levy and
http://www.carrierbagchargewales.gov.uk/consumers/?skip=1&lang=en
18
Exodus Market Research for Welsh Government and Zero Waste Scotland (2013). Consumer behavioural study on the use
and re-use of carrier bags 2012.
http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carrier%20bag%20behavioural%20report_SCOTLAND_FINAL%20V5%20
18%207%2013%20v3.pdf and http://wales.gov.uk/docs/desh/publications/130903behaviour-study-on-carrier-bags-reporten.pdf
19
Brook Lyndhurst for WRAP (2007). Consumer attitudes to biopolymers.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

The main purpose of the research was to explore current (stated) behaviours and attitudes
around carrier bag usage and towards the proposed carrier bag charge of consumers in
England. Figure 1 outlines the two main stages of the research, namely a series of discussion
groups and an online survey.
Figure 1 Research methodology

This study partly drew from the Exodus research for its design. Namely, specific question
wording was included in the questionnaire so that the findings from this research could be
cross checked to some extent (as the methodologies differ) against those in Scotland and
Wales. The survey used quotas to ensure representation from demographic groups whose
views were known to vary from the average. For example, the Exodus research showed that
young men under the age of 25 and families with young children were less receptive to the
charge. As men under 25 are comparatively less likely to participate in online panels,
additional effort was made to ensure this quota was met and that their views were
represented in the qualitative phase.
Qualitative phase
Purpose
The purpose of this phase was to provide in-depth insight of consumer attitudes and
behaviours towards bag use; public awareness, understanding and expectations related to
biodegradable bags; reasons for support or concern for the charge; and also to explore issue
framing and narrative around the charge. This phase also enabled the research team to
ensure that the language, tone and word choice used in the survey for the quantitative
phase, reflected discussion group participants own phrasing so as to make survey
completion easier for respondents.
Discussion group structure
In order to ensure an honest discussion, the groups were structured around a mix of
individual and group exercises, as well as general discussions around the four main research
questions (see beginning of this section). Furthermore, a discussion group pre-task was used

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

10

to frame (rather than prime) participants stated behaviours. For the pre-task, participants
were asked to bring along the bags they used for their last food shopping trip.20
Images from the materials used in the discussion groups are used in this report. These may
contain certain brands, retailers or products. Brook Lyndhurst acknowledges that neither
WRAP nor Defra endorse or promote any particular brand or product and that these are
simply used for illustrative and research purposes.
Recruitment and sampling
Eight discussion groups of 8-10 participants were conducted. In total 77 participants
attended.21 These groups were regionally split across England:
Two in the South West - Exeter;
Two in London;
Two in the Midlands Nottingham; and
Two in the North - York.
Recruitment to the groups was conducted using the free found recruitment method where
trained recruiters with databases of people in each of the areas contacted (via telephone or
email) potential participants and screened people from their database using a questionnaire
derived from the recruitment specification (see Annex 4). The recruitment specification was
designed to ensure a range of perspectives and demographics would be represented at the
qualitative phase, thereby ensuring that the subsequent questionnaire incorporated existing
views and familiar language.
The discussion groups were split by social grade.22 Separating participants by social grade
can help ensure that participants feel at ease and comfortable in each others presence
which in turn facilitates healthy discussions and debates within the groups. Out of the eight
groups:
Two were of social grade AB;
Four of social grade C1C2; and
Two of social grade DE.
To better understand aspects that may cause different behaviours and attitudes related to
bag use and the charge, several other factors were accounted for in the groups: rural/urban
divide; availability of plastic carrier bag recycling at kerbside collection; and, provision of
food waste recycling at kerbside collection. These factors were accounted for in the following
manner:
Two discussion groups had participants recruited from a rural location (one group in
Exeter and one in York), while the other six discussion groups had participants from urban
and semi-urban locations;
Two discussion groups (one in Exeter and one in London) had participants recruited from
local authorities/boroughs where plastic carrier bags were collected as part of dry
kerbside recycling collections; and
Two discussion groups (one in Exeter and one in London) had participants recruited from
local authorities/boroughs where food waste recycling at the kerbside was offered.
It was thought by the research team that the rural/urban dimension of where people live
may be indicative of different shopping habits and bag use (e.g. more frequent car use). It
20

See Annex 1 for a copy of the topic guide used in the discussion groups.
Participants were provided with a 40 cash incentive as a thank you for their time and participation.
22
Social grade divide the population into different categories, based on the occupation of the head of the household. The
groups are defined as follows: A- Higher managerial, administrative, professional e.g. Chief executive, senior civil servant; B Intermediate managerial, administrative, professional e.g. bank manager, teacher; C1- Supervisory, clerical, junior managerial
e.g. shop floor supervisor, sales person; C2 - Skilled manual workers e.g. electrician, carpenter; D- Semi-skilled and unskilled
manual workers e.g. assembly line worker, refuse collector; and E - Casual labourers, pensioners, unemployed.
21

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

11

was also thought that provision of a kerbside collection for plastic carrier bags and/or food
waste may reflect different experiences of plastic carrier bag disposal and understanding and
expectations of biodegradable bags and their disposal.
As the Exodus research showed differences in opinion over the charge and bag use
behaviours when it came to young men and young families, for this research a minimum
quota of one man aged between 18 to 24 and two parents of children under the age of 16
was set for each group.
Analysis
Notes were taken during each discussion group by the co-moderator. Manual thematic
analysis of these notes and transcripts was conducted around the key themes of the
research questions.
Interpretation of findings
Qualitative research provides in-depth insight into the perceptions, attitudes and behaviours
of those involved in the research. It helps explain the rationale behind participants opinions
and behaviours unpacking the why behind actions and attitudes much more than in
quantitative research. This gives what is sometimes referred to as high internal validity23.
Findings and insights, however, cannot be said to represent the views of the population and
cannot be extrapolated to be indicative of the wider population. This is sometimes referred
to as low external validity. As mentioned above, the main purpose of the qualitative
element in this research was to improve the quality of the survey design in the quantitative
phase and to provide detail and depth to some aspects of the research questions which were
not appropriate for the quantitative phase (e.g. narrative testing and communications around
the charge).
Quantitative phase
Purpose
The purpose of this phase of the research was to produce a repeatable baseline assessment
of attitudes and behaviours related to bag use and the charge that could be used to assess
change over time; identify the current level of support and concern for the charge and
reasons for these positions; and assess public awareness, understanding and expectations
related to biodegradable bags.
Methodology rationale
The mode for the survey element (online) was chosen by assessing the best value for money
option that would give reasonably robust results within a time period that enabled the
findings to inform policy development of the charge by Defra. Furthermore, the
questionnaire needed to be administered in a way that would enable it to be easily repeated.
For these reasons it was deemed that an online survey administered via a panel which is
relatively inexpensive, fast and easily repeatable - was the most appropriate methodology.
Data collection and sampling
The quantitative phase was an online survey using computer-assisted web interviewing
(CAWI), which was live from March 12th to 24th 2014.24 The survey was administered by ICM
Research using their online New Vista panel which was supplemented by a third party panel
called GMI to fill certain quotas (mainly of young men).
23

http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/intval.php and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_validity

24

The survey was left open longer as the young men quotas took longer to fill. However, by extending the time that the survey
was live most quotas were met which means the data did not need to rely too much on weighting in order to make it
representative of England.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

12

In order to be nationally representative of England25, the online survey had set quotas for:
Region;
Social grade;
Age; and
Gender.
A quota sampling approach was developed for the survey that aligned to the profile of the
adult population in England (see Annex 5) to reduce any biases that could arise from
respondents being very different from the larger population. Quotas were also set to ensure
that large enough base sizes of sub groups were achieved, to enable comparisons between
different sub groups (e.g age bands or social grades) and to better address the research
questions asking about variations between different groups.
Age and gender quotas were interlocked (i.e. separate quotas were set for men aged 18 to
24; women aged 18 to 24; men aged 25 to 34; women aged 25 to 34; men aged 35 to 44;
women aged 35 to 44; etc.) The achieved sample was 1,538 and the effective sample size
was 1528.26
In terms of implications for the interpretation of the survey results:
Sample was selected and targeted by ICM Research to match the sampling framework
designed (see Annex 5); however, once emailed each panel member could choose to
take part in the survey or not. This means that not everyone has the same probability of
taking part, as respondents have chosen to be part of a panel and opted to respond to
the survey; there is a degree of self-selection in this approach.
Although agreement to take part in a survey is always a necessary prerequisite of any
survey methodology, the proactive agreement to be a member of an online consumer
panel may make the pool of respondents in some way different to the population - for
example, they may be more technologically savvy. However, whilst comparative
methodology research has shown that this makes an online methodology less reliable for
when researching technological topics for non-technological topics where there is not a
clear reason for panel respondents to differ from the wider (in this case England)
population, online panels yield similar results to face to face methodologies (where
technological ability is likely to be more varied).27 Carrier bags fit into the category of nontechnological, however where questions were asked about online shopping habits there is
a particular risk of bias in these findings as a result.
The purpose of using quotas is to minimise biases, by ensuring that other aspects which
are known (from previous research) to be important in shaping consumers behaviours
and attitudes, such as age and gender, are represented proportionately, so that there can
be greater confidence that findings can be extrapolated to reflect the wider population.
Other sampling methods however, such as stratified random sampling, may provide more
precise estimates of attributes of the population as a whole- compared to quota sampling.
The research team felt that on balance the speed and cost benefits made quota panel
sampling preferable. Moreover, it is felt to be unlikely that attitudes to carrier bags and
their usage would differ among those who sign up to online survey panels and those who
do not.
The sample are panel members and are, therefore, likely to take part in more research
than the average citizen. Panel members have signed up to take regular surveys to collect
25

It was a requirement from WRAP and Defra for the research to be representative of consumers in England.
Little weighting had to be applied to the sample; therefore weighting factors fell between 0.88 and 1.17, with a mean of
1.003 and standard deviation of 0.058. The effective base of the sample was 1,528 which means that the weighting effect on
the sample was minimal. The impact of the weighting was accounted for when undertaking statistical testing. For the purposes
of statistical significance, an effective base is an indicator of the impact of the weights on the sample.
27
Comparing data from online and face-to-face surveys, International Journal of Market Research Vol. 47 Issue 6.
26

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

13

points to then receive small cash rewards. A trade-off is necessary to incentivise


respondents (which increases response rates and therefore tends to increase external
validity) but not to over incentivise respondents which could bias the sample toward
serial survey responders. The incentive for this survey was a points prize with an
approximate value of 1.However, propensity to take a survey either online or offline is a
bias in itself and will impact on any research method.
Online survey methods do not have interviewer bias and less human error compared to
other survey modes. There is also generally less social desirability bias as the respondent
is interfacing with a computer rather than a human being.
Sometimes survey topics can be off-putting or enticing and this can affect response
patterns. The topic of the survey (carrier bags) was referred to in the email invite in the
view of the research team this particular topic is not one that would particularly
encourage or discourage participation in the survey.
Questionnaire design
The questionnaire was designed with the understanding that comparisons to the Exodus
research would be made where feasible and with the caveat that different methodologies
were used.28
The design also took into account the issue of over-claiming the use of bags for life and own
bags and the under-claiming of the use of plastic carrier bags (see Section 1.4), since this
issue had been demonstrated in the Exodus research. Check questions, which are similar
questions asked from different angles, were included in order to assess any inconsistencies
in the way respondents answered, and thereby helping to highlight any misclaiming.
Analysis
Once the raw data was received, a top line of the results was generated and analysed.29
Weighting values were applied and fell between 0.88 and 1.17, with a mean of 1.0033 and
standard deviation of 0.058. The effective sample was, therefore, 1,528.
As the survey design was quota based rather than random probability based the application
of statistical tests has been considered as a practical approach for identifying important
findings rather than an application of rigorous statistical principals. T-tests were conducted
by to establish significant differences based on the normal distribution of responses in cross
breaks (e.g. different demographics or answer responses to other questions). This was
followed by further significance testing when investigating particular questions or answer
options for differences in certain attitudes, behaviours or socio-demographics.30 Throughout
this report significant differences at the 95% confidence interval, that were judged useful to
this research, have been highlighted.31

28

See section 1.4 and Annex 3 for further information.


See Annex 2 for a copy of the top line questionnaire results.
30
In tables, where the difference is significant, it can be useful to do a finer-grained investigation to identify what contributes to
the overall association that tests measures. A way to break down a significance test is to use standardised residuals. A
standardised residual is the error in between what the model predicts (the expected frequency) and the data actually observed
(the observed frequency). By looking at a standardised residual, its significance can be assessed. If its value lies outside +/1.96 then it is significant.
31
Measuring the likelihood that an event occurs by chance is the idea behind statistical significance. If there is, at most, a five
per cent chance (or expressed as at the 95% confidence level) that two events would happen together it can be inferred that
there is a reason that the events occurred together a pattern or correlation is present.
29

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

14

1.3
Report structure
This report draws on both the qualitative32 and quantitative data to summarise the England
findings on:
Food shopping behaviours;
Plastic carrier bag use for food shopping;
Bags for life and other bag use for food shopping;
Bag use for non-food shopping;
Biodegradable bags; and
Views on the proposed single use plastic carrier bag charge.
This report recounts the data in a factual and descriptive manner (rather than in an
interpretative way). Where feasible this report also offers insights as to why consumers may
hold a certain attitude or behave in a certain way by triangulating the findings of the
quantitative phase with those of the qualitative phase. This reports main audience is policy
colleagues within Government departments and public bodies.
The next chapter sets the scene by presenting the general food shopping behaviours. The
following two chapters then explore the type of bags used when food shopping Section 3
for plastic carrier bag use and chapter 4 for bags for life and other bags. A brief chapter on
bag use for non-food shopping then follows section 5. Section 6 offers insights into
consumers understanding, attitudes, and suggestions regarding biodegradable bags. The
penultimate section (Chapter 7) investigates views on the plastic carrier bag charge
specifically focussing on general awareness, potential impacts, levels of support, potential
exemptions and communication. Section 8 briefly outlines a few concluding remarks.
Before presenting the findings as above, this next sub-section briefly introduces the issues of
under-claiming and over-claiming of types of bags used it is important to bear these issues
in mind while reading the findings and interpreting their meaning. For a more in-depth
discussion on under-claim and over-claim of types of bags used see Annex 3.
1.4
Under-claim and over-claim of types of bag used
When responding to questionnaires, respondents tend to be subject to various kinds of bias.
It was anticipated that the most likely type of bias for this topic would be for respondents to
over-state altruistic and socially beneficial attributes or behaviours.33 In practice this means
that respondents are more likely to deny certain attitudes and behaviours which are
perceived to be socially undesirable, and overstate those that are desirable. To a lesser
extent respondents may demonstrate acquiescence bias in their answers, which is essentially
the tendency to be positive and provide the answers perceived to be what the interviewer, or
in this case, survey provider would like to hear.
For this reason of response bias, the online questionnaire took the possibility of over and
under claiming into account in its design. This was done by assessing the inconsistency of
responses across several different questions asking about a single behaviour. Furthermore,
comparisons could be made between claimed behaviours from this research and claimed and
observed behaviours from the Exodus research. However, these comparisons need to be
treated with caution, as the research was carried out in a different time period and used
different modes34 (online survey versus telephone interviews and observational research in
32

Anonymised quotes from discussion groups are used to support quantitative and qualitative data in this report and are
presented in a speech bubble. Quotes have the gender, social grade and location of who said them. Quotes from a dialogue are
preceded by a W for woman or an M for man. Quotes mentioning a specific retailer or brand have been anonymised
33
Social desirability bias tends to be an issue for most modes of survey research but is normally more present in face-to-face
and telephone surveys as the research context is more social and specific subject areas that have a social etiquette or
implication plastic carrier bag use is one of these subject areas.
34
The Exodus work used computer aided telephone interviewing (CATI) with a sample of 984 for Wales and 1,014 for Scotland.
This survey for England was conducted with computer assisted web interviewing (CAWI) with a sample of 1,538. All samples
have been weighted to the relevant nation and are comparable in this regard.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

15

Scotland and Wales) which can influence the responses given.35 In addition questions were
worded differently in the Exodus research compared to this research.
The research team was asked to outline the degree of under-claim and/or over-claim present
within the survey with a view to what extent claimed behaviours can be considered a true
pre-charge baseline for England. This section presents a summary of this while Annex 3
provides the detail. The main aspects to bear in mind when reading the remainder of the
report are:
Social desirability bias is a potential issue which causes under- and over-claim of certain
types of bag use, as found in the Exodus work; and
Steps to understand and, to a certain extent, minimise the potential bias have been
undertaken including the selection of an online methodology, question wording and the
below assessment.
At the time of the Exodus telephone interviews and observation data collection (observations
were carried out near the till in supermarkets and independent food stores), Wales had
already brought in carrier bag charging, whereas Scotland had not. It would, therefore, be
expected that the data for England be more similar to the Scottish data.
Comparing observational data with claimed data in the Exodus research shows an underclaim of usage of single use plastic carrier bags. In Scotland, on the last food shopping trip,
18% claimed to use new SUCBs for all of their shopping, while observational data suggested
that this figure was 47% (29% points under-claim). In Wales, by contrast, 7% claimed to
have used new single use plastic carrier bags for all of their latest food shop compared to
12% observed (5% points under-claim). It is clear that under-claim of single use plastic
carrier bags use is far less evident in Wales than Scotland. It is felt that under-claim in
England is likely to most closely match that of Scotland (29% points) due to the absence of a
charge on carrier bags in place in Scotland or England at the time of both pieces of research
and due to the matching baseline claims (for England in this online survey and Scotland in
the telephone survey in the Exodus research) of 18% of respondents claiming to only have
used single use carrier bags for their latest shop.
Over-claim for re-use of bags for life (i.e. brought from home not purchased in the shop)
was recorded at 28% points in Wales and 37% points in Scotland. As with single use carrier
bag usage, it is assumed that levels of over-claim in England would most closely resemble
those in Scotland (rather than Wales) representing a less marked, pre-carrier bag charge
scenario. The level of over-claim, however, is likely to be lower in England than in Scotland
due to claimed re-use of bags for life being lower in England than in Scotland (and in Wales).
To some extent the patterns revealed are supported by the findings for claimed ownership of
bags for life which were 93%, 86% and 80% for Wales, Scotland and England respectively.36
It is worth noting also, that after probing by the facilitator and various exercises in the
England discussion groups; it became clear that participants initially had over-claimed their
use of their own bags/bags for life for food shopping.

35

For further discussion on mode effects on data comparison see Duffy et al (2005). Comparing data from online and face-toface surveys, International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 47, Issue 6: 615-639.
36
It is nonetheless worth remembering the difference in mode - the England survey was conducted online and the Exodus
research in Scotland and Wales was conducted via telephone. The mode effect could explain the lower level of over-claim given
that social desirability bias may have less of an impact on responses gathered via online surveys compared to those gathered
via telephone interviews.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

16

2.0

Food shopping behaviours

The key highlights for food shopping behaviours include:


Almost two-thirds of respondents stated they buy their food both in a main shopping trip
and top-up shops;
The majority of respondents (89%) said they normally do their main food shopping trip in
a large supermarket/superstore, whilst for top-up shopping the majority (63%) visited
smaller branches of supermarket chains (e.g. Sainsburys Local, Tesco Metro)
For the main food shop only 16% of respondents stated they used an internet site for
online delivery (younger respondents (aged 24 to 44), women and those that had children
were more likely to do this than other groups) and 2% stated they used an internet site
for ordering and then collecting in store; and
The types of bags available to consumers for food shopping varied and which
combinations of bag types are used is often the result of a complex mixture of attitudes,
behaviours and habits. Bags for life, generally, and new plastic carrier bags are the types
of bag that consumers claim to use when doing their food shopping.
2.1
Food shopping profile
Food shopping, as opposed to other types of shopping, is the main focus of this research.
The focus on food shopping is explained by a large number of carrier bags being used for
food shopping37 and by the fact that food shopping has greater potential to be planned
ahead. The proposed charge is therefore expected to create a substantial behaviour change
in food shopping. The following section looks at the profile of survey respondents in relation
to their food shopping behaviours.
Approximately two-thirds of respondents (68%) claimed to do all or most of the food
shopping in their household. Women over 25 years of age were more likely to state they do
all or most of the shopping in their household, with men being more likely to state they do
about half or the minority of it these differences were statistically significant. Only 2% of
respondents stated that they did none of the food shopping in their household.
Most respondents claimed to do their food shopping either two or three times per week
(45%) or once a week (36%).
Almost two-thirds of respondents (64%) stated they buy their food both in a main shopping
trip and top-up trips.38 While just over a quarter (27%) stated they buy all of their food in a
main shopping trip and less than one in ten respondents (9%) stated that they buy their
food mostly in smaller top-up shopping trips.
Almost nine in ten respondents (89%) said they normally do their main food shopping trip in
a large supermarket/superstore. One in six respondents (16%) stated that they did their
main food shop online and less than one in ten respondents (9%) claimed they did their
main food shop in a smaller supermarket chain. Younger men aged 18 to 24 were more
likely to use smaller supermarket chains and smaller local/independent stores for their main
food shop this difference was statistically significant.
The types of stores used for top-up shops were more varied:
Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) stated that they did their top-up food shopping
at smaller branches of supermarket chains (e.g. Sainsburys Local, Tesco Metro, Spar);
Just under half of respondents (47%) claimed to use large supermarket/superstore; and
37

See for example WRAP (July 2013). UK Voluntary Carrier Bag Monitoring 2013. This contains data from supermarkets only.
http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carrier%20bags%20results%20%282012%20data%29.pdf
38
Top-up shop was defined as shopping for a small number of items to supplement food at home.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

17

Over a third (36%) claimed to use small local or independent stores.

Private transport was used for most main shopping trips. Three quarters (74%) of main food
shopping trips were taken home by private car, although this falls to 52% for top-up food
shops. For their main food shop 11% have it delivered by the store. Only 8% take their main
food shop home by foot, increasing to over a third (36%) for top-up food shops. For top-up
food shops, rural respondents are more likely to use a private car for their main shop 82%
for rural respondents compared to 63% for urban respondents this difference is statistically
significant. This chimes with the statements made about transporting shopping home by car
in the rural discussion groups.
2.2
Online shopping
It is important to bear in mind that respondents to an online panel may have quite different
behaviours when it comes to online shopping, despite the high level of internet usage across
the wider population. Therefore the findings here should be treated with particular caution.
When respondents were asked what type of store they normally use to do their food
shopping, for the main food shop 16% of respondents stated they used an internet site for
online delivery and 2% stated they used an internet site for ordering and then collecting in
store. Younger respondents (aged 24 to 44) were more likely to use an internet site for
online delivery than older respondents, this was slightly more pronounced for women and
those that had children - these differences were statistically significant. Very few
respondents used the internet to do their top-up food shopping.
Of all those who do some food shopping,39 most respondents (70%) have never had a bagless food delivery (note however that not all online supermarkets offer this as an option).40
Only 8% of respondents stated that they either very often or always opt for bag-less
delivery and 21% stated they either sometimes or rarely have bag-less delivery.
Overall of those who had experienced bag-less deliveries41, three in five respondents (61%)
preferred bag-less deliveries while over a third (36%) preferred deliveries with bags. Those
that preferred bag-less deliveries tended to do so for environmental reasons - because
plastic carrier bags are not good for the environment or because it is a waste to use plastic
carrier bags. While those that preferred deliveries with bags did so mainly for conveniencebecause it is easier to unpack my shopping or because it is useful to have plastic carrier
bags in the house.42
Those that have had bag-less delivery always or very often43 are more likely, perhaps
unsurprisingly, to prefer it and to do so for environmental reasons.
2.3
Types of bags used
The types of bags available to consumers for food shopping are varied and which
combinations of bag types are used is often the result of a complex mixture of attitudes,
behaviours and habits (or lack thereof).
In the online survey, approximately two in five respondents (43%) stated they used new
plastic carrier bags for some of their purchases the last time they went food shopping.
Equally, approximately two in five respondents (45%) stated they used bags for life brought
from home for some of their food shopping. About three in ten respondents (29%) used
39

This was 98% of the total sample (1,513 out of 1,538).


Not all food retailers offer this as an option.
41
Only 426 respondents out of 1,538 had experienced bag-less deliveries in total (28%).
42
For a full breakdown of the question see the table for Q16 in Annex 2.
43
This only amounts to 112 respondents representing only 7% of the total sample.
40

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

18

cloth/fabric bags brought from home and approximately one in five respondents (22%) used
plastic carrier bags brought from home for some of their purchase. Figure 2 below presents
the full spectrum of the combination of bags for different proportions of food shopping.
Figure 2 Proportion of food shopping in various bags and containers for last food shop
(Base: 1,513 All those who do some food shopping, Q20, single response)

It became apparent in the discussion groups that there were inconsistencies in how
participants described their use of plastic and other carrier bags. This could be due to poor
recall or social desirability, i.e. wanting to appear to exhibit environmentally friendly
behaviour. This suggests that their stated behaviour around bag use in the study may not
always reflect their actual behaviour.
Discussion group participants were asked to bring the bags that they used when they last
went food shopping. Many bags and types of bags were brought in - these were mainly bags
for life, including both supermarket budget bags for life and a variety of sturdier plastic and
jute supermarket bags for life, and respondents own bags. There were also some plastic
carrier bags.
In the discussion groups, participants were also asked to individually complete a grid
indicating how many bags or other containers they used for food shopping in the last week.
In this case, participants commonly stated that they had used new plastic carrier bags; bags
for life brought from home; and plastic carrier bags brought from home.
However, following probing from the facilitator and other exercises, it became apparent that
participants tended to use new plastic bags more than they had initially claimed; and that
they had over-stated their use of their own bags or bags for life when shopping for food.
The quantitative and qualitative findings (following the additional probing) match and
reinforce each other. New plastic carrier bags and bags for life, in general, are the types of
bag that consumers claim to use when doing their food shopping.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

19

3.0

Plastic carrier bag use for food shopping

The main insights with regard to plastic carrier bag use are:
Two in five respondents claimed to take plastic carrier bags for their main shop from the
till either always or often; while one in five respondents claimed to never do so.
Male and younger respondents are more likely to always take plastic carrier bags from
the till.
There is culture of storing plastic carrier bags as a force of habit rather than need.
Environmental reasons (linked to being wasteful; bad for the environment; avoiding
them ending up in landfill; etc.) and practical reasons (linked to own bags being
stronger, getting loyalty points for using own bags, etc.) are the main motivations for
consumers not to take plastic bags at the till.
3.1
Initial views
In the discussion groups, when participants were shown pictures of plastic carrier bags they
were generally referred to as normal plastic bags, normal shopping bag or normal carrier
bags. Some more unique but less frequent names included: cheap plastic bags; bin liners;
beer carrying bag; flimsy plastic bag; scandal bag; and market bag.
Quite often these bags were not liked because they tended to easily split or because they cut
into the carriers hands when too heavy. Other dislikes included their thin and flimsy makeup. Many participants, however, described their multiple and versatile uses especially as
bin liners and their ability to be easily and conveniently stored (see Section 3.4).
Three-quarters of survey respondents (72%), when shown the image to
the right, selected the statement that the carrier bag was harmful for the
environment, echoing the environmental theme above. Only two in five
respondents (39%) stated it was reusable and just over a third (36%)
described it as a normal shopping bag.
3.2
Frequency of use
One in five survey respondents (19%) claimed to never take plastic carrier bags from the till
when doing their main food shop; while approximately two in five respondents (42%)
claimed to take them either always or often. A further quarter (25%) stated that they
rarely take plastic bags and 15% stated they sometimes take plastic carrier bags from the
till for their main food shop.
When looking at top-up shops, the distribution of answers is quite similar (Figure 3). As
outlined in Section 1.4 above and backed-up by insights from the discussion groups, there is
reason to believe that there is a degree of under-claim of the use of new plastic carrier bags
for food shopping.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

20

Figure 3 Use of new plastic carrier bags when food shopping (Q17, single response)

When looking at the last food shop and proportion of use of different bags, approximately
two in five respondents (43%) stated they used new plastic carrier bags for some (less than
half or more) of their purchases the last time they went food shopping; while about half of
respondents (53%) stated they used none.
Comparing this stated behaviour to that of research from 2005, it would appear things have
moved on quite a bit, with consumers in 2005 claiming to use of plastic carrier bags to a
much greater extent. At the time, almost four in five respondents (79%) in answer to the
question Most supermarkets provide free plastic carrier bags at the checkout. When you go

to the supermarket for your main grocery shop to what extent do you make use of the free
bags? answered they put practically everything into free plastic carrier bags.44
When comparing stated usage for plastic carrier bags for the main shop and bag usage
generally for the last food shop, respondents answered consistently.45 For instance,
respondents who stated that they always or usually take plastic carrier bags from the till
are much more likely to have said that in their last food shop they used plastic carrier bags
from the till for half or more of their main shop.

Regarding plastic carrier bags brought from home, almost three-quarters of


respondents (73%) said they did not use any of these types of bags to pack their food. Just
under a quarter of respondents (22%) stated that they used plastic carrier bags from home
for some (less than half or more) of their purchases the last time they went food shopping.
This resonates with insights from the discussion groups where some participants mentioned
taking some old plastic carrier bags with them for packing specific products (e.g. meat,
cleaning products, clothes, lighter items).
Who tends to take plastic carrier bags from the till?
For the main food shop the youngest category and men are more likely to always take
plastic carrier bags from the till. Across the age and gender spectrum, men aged between 18
to 54 are more likely to always take plastic carrier bags from the till, while when looking at
44

Andrew Irving Associates for Corporate Culture on behalf of WRAP (2005). Carrier Bag Usage and Attitudes: Benchmark and
Target Market Study. It is worth noting that the methodology for this research was 1,048 street interviews across Great Britain
conducted from March2nd to 10th 2005. A direct comparison with this current piece of research is not possible given the different
methodology, mode and question wording.
45
See question wording in tables for Q17 and Q20 in Annex 2.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

21

specific age bands the youngest men and women (aged 18 to 24) are more likely this
difference is statistically significant. These insights broadly match those from the Exodus
research.46
There is a correlation between increasing household size and claiming to take bags from the
till more frequently. Similarly, households with children aged 15 years and under are more
likely to claim to take bags from the till more frequently.
Conversely, older respondents were most likely to either rarely or never take plastic carrier
bags from the till to pack their shopping.
Urban dwellers are more likely to claim they always take plastic carrier bags from the till for
their main food shop; 33% compared to 26% of suburban dwellers and 25% of rural
residents this difference is statistically significant. It is worth mentioning that rural
residents tend to be older while urban dwellers tend to be younger, and given that younger
respondents are more likely to claim to take plastic carrier bags from the till (see beginning
of this section); the difference in behaviour between rural and urban residents may be more
linked to age than location.47 Social grade A and E are most likely to claim they never take
plastic carrier bags from the till for their main food shop this difference is statistically
significant.
All these patterns are similar for top-up shopping trips, although they are less accentuated.
3.3
Attitudes: Motivations and barriers
When those that claimed they did not always take new plastic carrier bags from the till were
asked about why, a mixture of environmental and practical reasons were given (Figure 4).
Figure 4 Reasons for not taking plastic bags from the till (Base: 1,214 All those who claim
that they do not always take plastic carrier bags from the till, Q18, multiple response up to
three)

46

Exodus Market Research for Welsh Government and Zero Waste Scotland (2013). Consumer behavioural study on the use
and re-use of carrier bags 2012. See Section 4.5.1.
47
The rural population of England is, generally, on average older than in urban areas. See for example Defra (March 2014).
Statistical Digest of Rural England 2014. Government Statistical Service.
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/288991/Statistical_Digest_of_Rural_England_20
14_March.pdf

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

22

Approximately two in five respondents (37%) stated that they preferred their own bags as
they are stronger and less likely to break. A third (31%) stated that it was wasteful to take
new plastic carrier bags and over a quarter (28%) claimed that plastic carrier bags are bad
for the environment.
When clustering these responses into common themes, environmental motivations were
selected the most often followed by practical reasons and then financial drivers. The Exodus
research asked this question in a slightly different way both in wording and format;
therefore, a direct comparison is not possible. The general sentiment, however, of
environmental reasons being selected the most followed by practical reasons holds true.48
Compared to other gender and age groups, women over 45 years of age were more likely to
give the following environmental reasons: plastic carrier bags are bad for the environment;
to avoid plastic carrier bags ending up in landfill; and to prevent harm to animals from
plastic carrier bag litter these differences were statistically significant.
Those that gave environmental reasons for not taking plastic carrier bags at the till were
more likely be strongly in favour of the charge.
3.4

Behaviours: Storage and disposal

Every house in England has got


a big cupboard full of bags.
Man, Exeter, AB

W: Sometimes I do think Im a little bit


of a carrier bag snob because if you
get a nice [retailer anonymised]
bagand you think Ill put that in the
cupboard and when I go and see some
friends Im going to put a bottle of wine
in this So I have another sort of, my
snob carrier bags and then I have the
other carrier bags.
M: You grade your bags.
W: Well I am a carrier bag snob.
W: Yes keep the [retailer anonymised]
ones and use the [retailer anonymised]
ones.

The qualitative phase revealed that plastic carrier


bags are stored and hoarded as a force of habit not
for necessity. The hierarchy in Figure 5 presents a
qualitative assessment of what participants stated
they did with plastic carrier bags once they got home
and unpacked their shopping.
Participants described a plethora of ways of
storing carrier bags. The most popular ways
were a bag of bags, drawer and cupboard.
Other storage methods included: plastic bag
holder/dispenser, car, under kitchen sink,
garage, hallway and wine rack holder.
Participants stated that their approach to bag
storage depended on the bag in question.
Participants, often, would go through a
selection process or triage of the bags.

The circular direction of the arrows in Figure 5


for reused and refuse bin shows that,
though, the intention and initial claim was to re-use; often bags ended up in the refuse bin.
The order of frequency between reused and refuse bin is hard to determine.

48

Exodus Market Research for Welsh Government and Zero Waste Scotland (2013). Consumer behavioural study on the use
and re-use of carrier bags 2012.
http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carrier%20bag%20behavioural%20report_SCOTLAND_FINAL%20V5%20
18%207%2013%20v3.pdf See page 63.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

23

Figure 5 Hierarchy of what happens to plastic carrier bags (Qualitative phase)49

Many participants did, however, claim that they re-used plastic carrier bags and this was not
necessarily for food shopping. The most popular response to how plastic carrier bags were
re-used was as bin liners. Other uses for plastic carrier bags included: pet mess disposal;
food shopping; throwing out specific rubbish; carrying sport kit; DIY; car boot sales; keeping
paint brushes; cleaning hair dye, etc. Though many different reasons for storing plastic
carrier bags were given, it became apparent that the frequency of these usages (or lack
thereof) did not warrant the quantity of plastic carrier bags stored. At times plastic carrier
bags were simply kept to be stored.

Well I like them because I dont


have to pay for bin liners. And
they have all these other uses, I
dont enjoy carrying them back
from the shop but I know that
theyre going to have a use
afterwards so I always have a
couple.

In the survey, when asked why respondents did not


always take their own bags, 14% stated I take new
plastic carrier bags to use for other things (e.g. as
bin liners).

The normal refuse bin was the most frequently


mentioned mechanism of disposal of plastic carrier
bags. In the two discussion group locations where
plastic bags were collected as part of the kerbside
Man, Nottingham, C1C2
dry recyclables, a few participants mentioned using
this avenue; however, many were unaware of this
option.50 Disposing of old plastic carrier bags via
charities or local independent stores or through
supermarket recycling bins were only mentioned a couple of times. However, in the survey,
two-fifths (41%) of respondents said they were very aware that plastic carrier bags can be
recycled at most supermarkets; a third (34%) were slightly aware; and just a quarter
(23%) not at all aware.
3.5

Plastic carrier bag litter

I pick it up if I see it and Ill put


it in a bin or Ill take it home, but
in my local area you dont see it
really.
Woman, York, AB

There was no clear consensus on the status of plastic


carrier bag litter. A third of respondents (33%) claimed
that plastic carrier bag litter had increased in the last
few years; while a quarter (26%) stated that it had
decreased. A further quarter (23%) claimed that it had

49

The circular direction of the arrows for reused and refuse bin shows that, though, the intention and initial claim was to reuse; often bags ended up in the refuse bin.
50
These groups were located in Exeter and London.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

24

stayed about the same and one in five respondents (18%) did not know. Figure 6 below
shows the detailed breakdown of these responses.
Figure 6 Prominence of plastic bag litter (Base: 1,538, Q26, single response)

We went somewhere the


other day and I cant think
where it was, but coming back
this line of trees, obviously no
leaves or whatever on them; it
was just like a carrier bag tree.
A range of trees with just loads
of plastic carrier bags flapping
up against them in the breeze
and Im thinking that looks
terrible. It was beautiful
countryside and just a row of
trees with carrier bags, loads
of carrier bags, absolutely
loads.
Woman, Nottingham, DE

In the discussion groups, participants were asked


about the negative effects of plastic carrier bags.
Participants did not necessarily make the connection
between plastic bags and litter immediately, but once
it was raised or prompted by the moderator it
resonated with participants. Litter tended to be
conceptualised to include wrappers and packaging
rather than plastic carrier bags specifically.
Being generally bad for the environment was the
main negative effect of plastic carrier bags mentioned
in the discussion groups, which chimes with the
reasons why respondents said they choose not to take
free plastic carrier bags at the till to pack their food
shopping (see Section 3.3). Other negative effects
mentioned included taking a long time to rot (in
landfill) and harming animals.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

25

4.0

Bags for life and other bag use for food shopping

The key take-outs for use of bags for life and other bags for food shopping are:
Over a quarter of respondents considered budget bags for life to be a a normal shopping
bag; this was a feeling echoed by many participants in the focus groups who made little
differentiation between these bags and single use carrier bags.
Half of respondents claimed that they did not re-use bags for life the last time they went
food shopping and 7% said they purchased new bags for life on their most recent food
shopping trip.
Given that half of respondents who have bags for life did not dispose of them in the last
year it can be assumed that they are stored and potentially hoarded since two-fifths own
five or more.
Awareness of being able to return used bags for life to the store for a free replacement
(over two-fifths said they were very aware of this option) is higher than actual practice of
this disposal route.
4.1

Initial views

The following images were shown to participants in the discussion groups:

Budget bags for life

Cloth bags

Bags for life

Nylon fold away shopping


bags

Rucksacks and more


permanent shopping bags

Bag for life was considered a catch-all term. It was understood by participants in the
discussion groups to encompass many types of bags, including both: budget bags for life
made of thicker plastic costing between 5p and 12p, and the reusable shopping bags made
of canvas, cotton, jute, synthetic fibres (e.g. nylon), even thicker plastic, etc.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

26

In the groups when shown pictures of supermarket branded budget bags for life
participants described them as: durable bags; bags for life; long-lasting bags; 10p bags;
thicker, stronger, sturdier and better than normal plastic carrier bags; heavy duty; more
practical, comfortable and easier to carry; and with sturdier and better handles. Participants
often still referred to these types of bags as carrier bags - just stronger than the normal
plastic carrier bags.
In the groups when shown pictures of more durable bags for life participants described
them as: shopping bags; shoppers; bags for life; even more durable and stronger bags;
woven bags; and jute bags. The consensus was that these bags may cost a bit more but
would last a very long time. A few participants mentioned that these at times came with
handy bottle holders which were well liked. Overall these types of bags were widely used
and well liked as they were durable and easy and comfortable to carry.
In the groups when shown pictures of cloth bags participants often called them by the
following names: canvas bags; hemp bags; freebie bags; hessian bags; hippie bags and
beach bags. The general consensus was that these bags were not suitable for food shopping
as they were not practical to stand items in, the handles were too long, and were quite
feminine.
In the groups when shown pictures of nylon fold away shopping bags many participants did
not recognise them. Those that did referred to them as: foldable or folding bags; handbag
bag; picnic bag; compact fabric bags; and travel bag. These were thought to be convenient
by most and a bit extravagant by some. Participants, however, worried whether they would
be sturdy enough for food shopping and whether they would be easily mislaid or forgotten.
In the groups when shown pictures of rucksacks and more permanent shopping bags many
participants described these as designer (carrier) bags; luxury bags; travel bags; picnic bags;
beach bags; and multipurpose bags. Participants doubted that these bags were appropriate
for food shopping and some felt that in-store staff may think that you were stealing if using
these types of bags in a non-food retail outlet.
In the survey, when presented with an image of a budget bag for life, over four in five
respondents (84%) described the bag as reusable and two in five respondents (42%)
described it as environmentally friendly. Two in five (41%) also described it as usually
recyclable.51 Approximately a third (29%) described it as a normal shopping bag this, as
discussed earlier in Section 4.1, was reinforced by the discussion group findings. Participants
often referred to budget bags for life as (normal) carrier bags. With the introduction of the
charge in England, it will be interesting to see how these perceptions of bag image may
change over time. Figure 7 illustrates the totality of the statements selected to describe the
image of the budget bag for life.

51

This is discussed in more detail both in Section 4.4 and 6.2.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

27

Figure 7 Identification of bag types (Base: 1,538, Q27, multiple responses)

Respondents were also presented with images of jute bags and canvas bags: in both cases
three quarters of respondents stated they were reusable 76% (jute) and 75% (canvas).
Over half stated that they were environmentally friendly 63% (jute) and 51% (canvas).
Over a third described these two types of bags as normal shopping bags 36% (jute) and
38% (canvas).52
4.2
Frequency of use
The last time they went food shopping, half of survey respondents (50%) claimed that they
did not re-use bags for life53 for any of their purchases; while less than half (45%) stated
that they packed some (less than half or more) of their shopping in bags for life brought
from home.
Conversely, one in six respondents (17%) stated they put all their purchases in bags for life
brought from home the last time they went food shopping. This correlates well with the one
in five respondents (19%) who claimed that they always bring my own bags - assuming
that the majority of my own bags is made up of bags for life as the discussion groups would
indicate.
Women over the age of 45 and men over the age of 55 are more likely to have stated that
they packed all of their shopping in a bag for life brought from home the last time they went
shopping these differences are statistically significant. Those that did not use bags for life
for their last food shop are much more likely to do most of their food shopping in smaller
top-ups rather than a main shopping trip or a mixture this difference is statistically
significant. These respondents are also more likely to take their shopping home by foot or
public transport compared to by car/taxi this difference is statistically significant. These
types of top-up shops may, therefore, be more spontaneous and unplanned which may
explain why respondents do not have bags for life with them.
Seven percent claimed they had bought a new bag for life at the store to pack some of their
shopping most of them (6%) stated that this was for less than half of their purchases.
52
53

For a follow breakdown of these questions see the tables for Q27 in Annex 2.
Defined as reusable shopping bags bought by shoppers from supermarkets see Glossary for full definition.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

28

Those that claimed to have packed all of their purchases in bags for life in their last food
shop were more likely to be strongly in favour of the charge.
About a third of respondents (29%) claimed to use cloth/fabric bags brought from home for
some of their purchases. One in ten (10%) claimed to have used nylon fold away bags and
one in ten (9%) claimed to have used rucksacks/shopping trolleys brought from home.
The claimed use of bags for life is much lower in this survey than in the Wales and Scotland
research. Less than half of respondents (45%) in England claimed to have re-used bags for
life for some (those that selected all; more than half; half; and less than half) of their
purchases in their last shop compared with 5% in Scotland (pre charge) and 79% in Wales
(post charge). In terms of observational data, 28% of customers observed in food chain
stores in Scotland used a bag for life on their shop. It is assumed that levels of over-claim in
England would most closely resemble those in Scotland, being pre-charge. However it is
reasonable to infer that the degree of over-claim is likely to be lower in England than in
Scotland due to claimed behaviour being lower to begin with. For a more detailed discussion
on the presence of over-claim in our survey and comparison to the Exodus research see
Annex 3.
Two in five respondents (39%) owned five or more bags for life, while 13% stated they
owned none. This reinforces the insights from the qualitative research that there is a culture
(in England) of storing and hoarding plastic carrier bags including bags for life. Women over
35 are more likely to own five or more bags for life. This is especially pronounced for
women between the age of 45 to 55 where 59% stated they own five or more this
difference is statistically significant.
Ownership of bags for life has increased over the years both in England and in Wales.54 In an
on-street study conducted in 2005 only 40% of respondents had ever bought a bag for life.55
Though not directly comparable due to methodological, mode and question-wording
differences only 13% in this survey stated they did not own any bags for life. It is interesting
to note that despite this high ownership only 45% claimed to have re-used bags for life for
any (All; More than half; Half; and Less than half) of their purchases in their last shop.
In this England survey, those who claimed to have bags for life were asked how often they
use them for food shopping. About a quarter (23%) claimed they did so every time and a
third (32%) claimed most of the times (Figure 8).

54

Poortinga, Whitmarsh, Suffolk (2013). The introduction of a single-use carrier bag charge in Wales: attitude change and
behavioural spill over effects. Journal of Environmental Psychology 35: 240-247.
55
Andrew Irving Associates for Corporate Culture on behalf of WRAP (2005). Carrier Bag Usage and Attitudes: Benchmark and
Target Market Study, p. 71.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

29

Figure 8 Frequency of use of bags for life (Base: 1,338 All those who have bag(s) for life,
Q23, single response)

4.3

Attitudes: Motivations and barriers

Yes we all agreed that it was


easy sometimes to forget bags.

Woman, London, DE

Reasons for not always using own bags


Over half of respondents (54%) stated that the main
reason why they did not always take their own bags
when they went food shopping is because they forget.
Women between the ages of 25 to 54 were most likely
to give this reason this difference is statistically
significant.

If I forget I get the normal


bags.

The discussion group findings strongly support this


forgetfulness when it comes to bringing your own
bags when food shopping. Many participants related
various incidents of how they had forgotten to bring their own bags and resorted to either
using the free plastic carrier bags provided at the checkout or bought new bags for life.
Participants stated that forgetting their bags often simply meant leaving them in the boot of
the car.
Woman, London, DE

Approximately a quarter of respondents (23%) said it is because they do not always know
when they are going food shopping. When looking at the sub-sample of those who mostly
buy food in smaller top-up shopping trips, this is much more pronounced: 40% of top-up
shoppers gave this reason the difference is statistically significant (Figure 9).

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

30

Figure 9 Reasons why respondents do not always take their own bags (Base: 1,513 All
those who do some food shopping, Q19, multiple responses up to three)56

About one in five respondents (17%) claimed that the reason they did not always use their
own bags was down to convenience its more convenient to just take the plastic bags
provided at the till. This reason was more likely to be given by younger respondents,
especially men aged 18-44 and the youngest group of women 18-24 these differences are
statistically significant.
One motivation given by respondents for not always taking new plastic carrier bags from the
till was to obtain extra loyalty card points (25% - see Figure 4 in Section 3.3) In the
discussion groups there were mentions of supermarket rewards like loyalty card cash backs
and points encouraging some to re-use bags and bring their own bags when food shopping.
Reasons for not always using new plastic carrier bags were more evenly distributed across a
mix of environmental and practical reasons (see Section 3.3). Reasons for not always using
respondents own bags, however, were more clear-cut - over half simply forget. This would
suggest that respondents on some level know that they should be bringing their own bags.
Furthermore, there could be an appetite for bringing ones own bags when going food
shopping. This may be indicative of the social desirability effect and what people think they
should be doing as discussed in Section 1.4 and Annex 3.
4.4
Behaviours: Storage and disposal
When the storage of bags for life and own bags was discussed generally in the groups, most
participants stated that they kept their bags either in the car, kitchen or in the hallway for
easy access for the next food shopping trip.

M: Ive definitely got one in


the back of my car but I rarely
seem to remember to think oh
Ill do that.
W: I always forget mine and
wouldnt go back for them, I
56
have in
to Figure
admit.
Images
9 from iStock.

However, for budget bags for life as opposed to bags


for life (see Glossary) the storage practices tended to
replicate those for plastic carrier bags (see Section
3.4).

Dialogue, Exeter, C1C2

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

31

Over half of respondents (51%), who have bags for life, stated they had not disposed of any
in the last 12 months. This further reinforces the notion of storing and hoarding bags simply
out of habit.
Just looking at the 49% who had disposed of a bag for life in the last 12 months:
Two-fifths (42%) stated that they had handed it back and got a free replacement;
A quarter (25%) stated they had used it as a bin liner;
A fifth (20%) recycled it at home;
15% recycled it somewhere else; and
57
15% put it in the general rubbish at home.
This would suggest some confusion among respondents over what should and can be done
when disposing of bags for life.
Just over two-fifths (44%) of all respondents claimed to be very aware of the fact that bags
for life can be replaced free of charge with new bags for life at any supermarket; a quarter
(26%) claimed to be slightly aware; and a third (30%) not at all aware.
It is worth remembering though that only a fifth (20%) of all respondents had stated that
they had disposed of a bag for life by handing it back and getting a replacement free of
charge in store in the last year. The qualitative findings and the Exodus research tell a
similar story. In the discussion groups taking back bags for life to retailers for a free
replacement did not seem to be a prolific behaviour, nor common knowledge. Furthermore,
in the Exodus research, only seven observed shoppers in Wales requested replacement bags
for life and none did so in Scotland.58
Those that were very aware of being able to get a used bag for life replaced free of charge
were more likely to be: women over 45 years old; those who were very aware of the charge
taking place in England; those who were strongly in favour of the charge all these
differences were statistically significant.
Respondents who had bags for life were asked approximately how many times they were
used prior to disposal, a third (33%) stated that they never disposed of bags for life; a
further third (32%) stated they used them more than 15 times; a fifth (22%) stated less
than 15 times; and 13% were not sure. The fact that a third reported they had never
disposed of a bag for life further substantiates the contentions that there is a culture and
habit of storing and hoarding bags.

57

The base for these percentages is 651 so only 42% of the total sample.
Exodus Market Research for Welsh Government and Zero Waste Scotland (2013). Consumer behavioural study on the use
and re-use of carrier bags 2012.
http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carrier%20bag%20behavioural%20report_SCOTLAND_FINAL%20V5%20
18%207%2013%20v3.pdf See page 85.
58

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

32

5.0

Bag use for non-food shopping

The key insights for bag use for non-food shopping include:
Between three-fifths and four-fifths of respondents who shop at non-food stores stated
that they usually carry items from these shops home in new carrier bags (this is
particularly high for clothes shops).
Participants felt that receiving a bag for their purchases (again especially for clothes
shopping) was an integral part of the shopping experience.
These insights should be viewed in the context of the Welsh experience where the use of
single use carrier bags for non-food shopping did in fact fall sharply following the
introduction of the charge.
The qualitative and quantitative stages of this research briefly touched upon bag use for
non-food shopping.
The majority of respondents said when shopping at non-food stores, they expect to carry
home items they purchase in new bags provided by the stores. This is most pronounced with
clothes shops where four in five respondents (81%) stated they would usually use new
carrier bags obtained at the till to carry their purchases home. For the other types of shops
this is the case for approximately three in five respondents (63% for beauty and health care
shops; 63% for entertainment shops; 60% for electrical/ electronic shops; and 58% for DIY
and hardware shops). Figure 10 overleaf provides the detailed breakdown by type of shop
and by type of bag.
Very few respondents (less than 10% across all shop types) stated they would bring their
own bag for life from home to pack their purchases. Those that stated that they did not take
bags from the till for purchases made in non-food shops were more likely to be in the older
age categories.
The way consumers behave in beauty and healthcare shops seems to be slightly more
comparable to habits exhibited in food shops. Of those who shop in beauty and healthcare
shops, one in ten respondents (11%) stated they would use carrier bags brought from home
for purchases made in beauty and healthcare shops and 14% stated they would use cloth
bags.
Women, generally, and older women (over 55), specifically, were more likely to state they
would use a cloth/ fabric bag brought from home for their purchases from beauty and
healthcare shops. Older respondents more generally, were more likely not to take bags from
the till for their purchases from these types of shops.
Elsewhere for cloth bags, 11% said they would normally use these for entertainment shops
and 10% for DIY and hardware shops. This matches the qualitative findings stating that
cloth/ fabric bags were more appropriate for non-food purchases.
One in five respondents for electrical and electronic shops (18%) and for DIY and hardware
shops (19%) claimed that they usually carried the items loose. These are likely to be large
and well- packaged items that do not require bags for transportation home.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

33

Figure 10 Bag use for non-food shops (Base: see below all those who shop in these nonfood stores, Q21, multiple responses)59

In the discussion groups lively debates took place when considering bag use for non-food
shopping. While participants had contemplated bringing their own bags to food
supermarkets, or at least could understand the rationale or practicalities behind doing so,
this was not the case for non-food shopping.

59

The bases for the different store types are indicated in the graph. The respondents who had selected I dont shop at this
type of store have been removed from the base of the total sample this represented 6% for clothes shops; 14% for Beauty/
healthcare shops; 12% for electrical/ electronics shops; 14% for entertainment shops; and 13% for DIY and hardware shops.
For figures including these respondents see the table for Q21 in Annex 2.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

34

Im in agreement with you in


the sense that its a treat and
you go out and you want to
show off what youve bought,
so if Ive gone to a very high
end retailer Im not going to
stick it in one of those bags
Im going to show off, and its
literally saying look Ive worked
hard for this and Ive been
able to save for whatever
youve bought and you want to
show it off to the world.

Receiving a bag for a clothing purchase was


considered an intrinsic part of the shopping experience
for many participants. Participants spoke of getting the
bag as part of the treat, reward or pleasure. The
complex relationships between clothing, on the one
hand, and social identity/image, individual status,
culture and values, on the other hand, have been
researched extensively elsewhere. 60 Suffice to say that
these associations resurfaced when it came to bag-use
and clothes shopping.

In the discussion groups participants were also asked


how they felt about using bags for life in non-food
Man, London, C1C2
shops. Many participants stated they would not put
clothes in a supermarket bag for life, naming hygiene
concerns and image (see shopping experience
discussion above) as reasons for this. Participants
stated they would not necessarily purchase a bag for life from a non-food retailer unless they
were habitual customers of that brand/retailer. Furthermore, participants expressed
uneasiness about using a non-food retailer- branded bag for life in a different non-food
retailer.

Its attractive, you know you


are not defined by the
shopping bag that youve got
but you are associated with a
particular brand if youre
walking around with that
shopping bag, and thats what
marketing and branding is.
And thats part of the pleasure
because obviously it plays into
our need to feel as though
youre one of the pack or stand
out or show your wealth or
your individuality and thats
what packaging is.

Woman, York, AB

The shop with the greatest


prestige and the greatest bag
ends up being the bag.
Man, Exeter, AB

Another theme which came up in the discussion


groups was using the same non-food bag to carry
purchases from different stores and, therefore, not
taking a bag for every purchase. Most participants
were against this and would ordinarily always tend to
take the bag even if it then went in another bag. Both
men and women, but perhaps a bit more pronounced
amongst women, stated that they would only place
non-food items from one store in a bag of another
store if that bag was deemed more prestigious (i.e.
was from a brand or retailer that was deemed as
higher-end).
It should be noted that, although single use carrier
bags were relatively popular in the discussion groups
for non-food shopping (in particular clothes shopping);
data reported to the Welsh Government shows a
reduction in single use carrier bags of between 75% and
68% for fashion retailers and 95% for home
improvement retailers since the launch of the carrier bag
charge in Wales.61

60

See for example WRAP (2012). Appendix 3: Secondary evidence on consumer attitudes and behaviour.
http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Appendix%20III%20%20Secondary%20evidence%20on%20consumer%20attitudes%20and%20behaviour%20FINAL%2010.7.12%20v2.pdf
61
Based on data from 13 retailers:
http://wales.gov.uk/topics/environmentcountryside/epq/waste_recycling/substance/carrierbags/reduction/?lang=en

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

35

6.0

Biodegradable bags

In summary with regard to biodegradable bags:


Respondents and participants struggled to define biodegradable bags in any detail.
There was some understanding that a biodegradable bag should break down naturally,
without harming the environment and/or faster than normal plastic carrier bags.
Disposal expectations for biodegradable bags were split across three options: bin liner,
dry recycling and food waste bin.
The length of time that participants and respondents thought biodegradable bag should
take to break down had a wide range with slight peaks at one year and three to six
months (a season).
Some participants claimed knowing that a plastic bag was biodegradable would enable
them to feel less guilty about taking them from the till and, subsequently, disposing of
them in the rubbish bin.
Three-fifths of respondents indicated a preference for a logo on the bag to identify
biodegradable bags, however, current awareness of compostable logos is very low and
discussion group insights suggest that few would carefully read information on the bag.
6.1
Initial views
The purpose of this element of the research was not to obtain consumer reaction to a set
definition of biodegradability standards, but rather to explore how consumers understood the
term biodegradable and then to use this as a working definition for further discussion in the
qualitative groups and for analysis in the quantitative phase.
When asked about the meaning of the term biodegradable, in both the qualitative and
quantitative phases of the research, the most commonly used definition was that it breaks
down, that it degrades, that it rots, that it decomposes , etc. There were a lot of
mentions of the amount of time that this process would take (i.e. needing to be shorter than
normal plastic/plastic carrier bag)62 and that it needed to happen naturally (i.e. without
harmful environmental effects, disintegrating back into the soil). The image in Figure 11 is a
visual representation of all the words used by respondents, in the survey and participants in
the discussion groups, to demonstrate consumers understanding of the term biodegradable
(bag).63

62

See Section 6.2 for a more detailed discussion of the expected timeframe.
This image was generated by importing text in an online tool called WordleTM (http://www.wordle.net/) which generates word
clouds. Common English words (including one and bag in this instance) have been removed. The size of the word denotes the
frequency with which a word was mentioned. For example, time and breaks came up very frequently.
63

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

36

Figure 11 Word cloud of meaning of biodegradable (bag) (Qualitative and quantitative


findings, Q28, open ended)

It is worth noting that there was no real depth of understanding when it came to
biodegradable with the exception of a few participants who were well- informed.

Q: Was it a biodegradable
bag?
Woman: Yes, it must have
been. It was from [retailer
anonymised] and it had all just
fallen to pieces.
Woman: Which is why I
thought all carrier bags were
these days.

As noted in an earlier (2007) WRAP study on


biopolymers, there is still confusion and uncertainty
amongst consumers over the difference between
degradable; biodegradable and compostable.64 In the
discussion groups, compostable was only mentioned
when prompted or when provided with a compostable
caddy liner to handle/touch as part of one of the
exercises.

In this study, a few participants and respondents were


not sure in what location biodegradable bags were
meant to break down. The majority assumed it was in
the ground, soil and/or landfill while others thought it may happen in the kitchen drawer or
in the garage where they stored their plastic carrier bags. This latter assumption was at
times generated by personal experience of a supermarket plastic carrier bag disintegrating
after a certain period of time (e.g. bag of Christmas lights being stored in the garage).
Dialogue, Exeter, AB

A minority of respondents both in the discussion groups and in the survey (approximately
10%) simply did not know what was meant by the term biodegradable and stated as much.
In the discussion groups some participants believed that all plastic carrier bags were (now)
biodegradable.
6.2
Attitudes and expectations
The confusion around the meaning of biodegradable is further exemplified by the fact that
when shown different images of bags in the survey, between one in seven and one in three
respondents selected usually biodegradable as a relevant statement (29% for jute bag;
19% for budget bag for life; 15% for normal plastic carrier bags; and 15% for a cloth bag).65
It is fair to note that even more respondents described these bags as usually recyclable
64
65

Brook Lyndhurst for WRAP (2007). Consumer attitudes to biopolymers.


See table in Q27 in Annex 2 for actual images used for this question.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

37

between a fifth to two fifths (41% for budget bag for life; 28% for jute bag; 26% for a
normal plastic carrier bag; and 22% for a cloth bag). This suggests that there is still some
confusion when it comes to judging what materials are widely recyclable.
After respondents were given the opportunity to type in their own definition of a
biodegradable bag, they were presented with a list of statements related to biodegradable
bags and asked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the statements. The
graph in Figure 12 outlines all the responses to the statements presented.
Figure 12 Attitudes towards biodegradable bags (Base: 1,538, Q30, single response)

At the moment I think I


know I should be doing it but
Im not doing it because Ive
got two babies that Im going
shopping with and its absolute
chaos and I always forget my
bags, so I almost think that as
an excuse but I think if theyre
biodegradable Ill think well
thats fine [because Im doing
my bit for the environment.
Women, York, AB

Yes the pastel ones feel really


sturdy whereas the other ones
feel like when you pull them they
start to give a little bit.

Man, Nottingham, DE

Some of them feel slightly porous


in the design.

Man, London, C1C2

It is revealing to note that between a fifth and a half of


all respondents for all of the statements effectively either
did not know, were impartial or preferred to sit on the
fence.
Four in five respondents (79%) agreed that
biodegradable bags would break down more easily in
landfill than normal plastic bags and, just over half of
respondents (51%) agreed that it would not be that bad
to put biodegradable bags in the general rubbish
compared to normal plastic carrier bags.
This experience of guilt relief was echoed in the
discussion groups. Participants admitted using and
disposing of normal plastic carrier bags in the general
rubbish/refuse bin but felt guilty about it. They said,
however, that knowing that a plastic bag was
biodegradable would enable them to feel less guilty
about taking them from the till in the first place and
disposing of them in the rubbish bin. Three in five
respondents, nonetheless, did say that biodegradable
bag littering would not be an appropriate behaviour.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

38

There was a slight concern from some discussion group participants that the development of
biodegradable bags would ease guilt to such an extent that it may discourage certain
consumers to re-use bags or use bags for life. A few participants also questioned the
rationale behind introducing an exemption for biodegradable bags if the end goal was to
move away from plastic bags altogether.
Almost half (46%) of respondents would think it reasonable to put biodegradable bags in the
home compost bin or food waste recycling collection. This is discussed further in Section 6.3.
Less than a quarter (22%) felt that biodegradable bags would not be as strong as normal
plastic carrier bags. The qualitative insights corroborate this finding.
When presented with samples of a blend of regular plastic and a plastic currently marketed
as degradable,66 participants commented that the coloured plastic samples with a high
content (above 98%) of recycled low density polyethylene (LDPE)67 in particular felt strong
and sturdy. Some participants equated their strength to black bin liners. The texture of the
white coloured samples with a higher degradable content was commented by some as being
porous. The use of the word porous was used in a neutral and descriptive manner. The
texture of these samples was generally well liked as they felt less like plastic and more
natural. There were some concerns, however, that these white coloured/high degradable
content samples may be not as strong when stretched with the weight of grocery shopping.
Respondents in the survey and participants in the groups were asked how long they would
expect it to take for a bag labelled as biodegradable to break down. In the discussion
groups the range went from a few minutes to 100 years. The most common answers from
the qualitative research were three months, six months and a year. These estimates were
often pure guesses. At times participants based it on the length of time they would expect to
use the same bag for or their experience of how long it takes for things to compost. For
example, if they thought that a compostable bag would take three to six months to break
down (based on a season) then an educated guess would lead them to say that a
biodegradable bag should take a year to break down in comparable conditions.
Around a quarter of respondents (26%) gave the same preferences as those voiced in the
discussion groups three months to a year. Figure 13 outlines the wide range provided from
the survey question on the expected lifetime of biodegradable bags. It is important to note
that a quarter of respondents (25%) did not feel that they had enough knowledge to express
an opinion this was echoed by participants in the discussion groups who found answering
the question difficult.

66

A number of technologies are used to create plastic films claiming to show some form of degradation in natural or managedwaste situations. The type of degradable plastic in the samples used in this study is deliberately unidentified, hence the term
degradable, when applied to the samples, is used in its wider sense in order to anonymise the material.
67
In total five samples were tested. The two samples with 98% (2% degradable) or 100% LDPE content were green and peach
in colour while the other three samples with a higher degradable content were all white in colour.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

39

Figure 13 Time biodegradable bags are expected to take to break down (Base: 1,538, Q31,
open response)

6.3
Disposal avenues
There were a range of expectations among respondents as to how they would be able to
dispose of a biodegradable bag. Being used as a bin liner, placed in the (dry) recycling, and
used as a food waste bin liner were all selected by a third of respondents as potential
disposal avenues. This fragmented response was echoed in the discussion groups. However,
it is worth remembering that given the confusion around biodegradable as a term, these are
not necessarily real expectations but more a reactive reply or best guess.
Though only 15% of respondents stated that they would dispose of biodegradable bags via
their general rubbish bin, the discussion group insights suggest differently. Participants in the
discussions seemed to conclude that if they were uncertain and had not been told where
biodegradable bags should be disposed of then they would probably put them in the general
rubbish bin as the safe option.68 This is further supported by the fact that when probed
participants said that they would treat biodegradable bags as they treat normal plastic carrier
bags. This would imply similar storage, re-use and disposal practices disposal for plastic
carrier bags was often the rubbish bin.69
Figure 14 below shows the range of disposal avenues for biodegradable bags selected by
survey respondents.
Respondents who stated that they would put biodegradable bags in their food/garden waste
collection and/or their compost bin/heap were more likely to regularly refer to the
compostable packaging symbol and more likely to have seen this label this difference was
statistically significant.70

68

This chimes with findings from the WRAP 2007 work. See Brook Lyndhurst for WRAP (2007). Consumer attitudes to
biopolymers, p. 19.
69
See Section 3.4.
70
See Section 6.4 for further discussion.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

40

Figure 14 Disposal of biodegradable bags (Base: 1,538, Q29, multiple responses)

6.4
Suggestions for identifying biodegradable bags
A logo/ label was the preferred way of identifying a biodegradable bag. When presented with
options:
Three in five respondents (57%) stated that the best approach for indicating that a carrier
bag is biodegradable is a logo/ label printed on the bag;
A fifth (19%) opted for a particular colour of bag;
Just under a fifth (17%) preferred written information on the bag; and
A further 7% wanted an accreditation from a recognised/ trusted agency.
From the discussion group insights, there was strong
support for a logo and, when prompted, there was an
Id want to know how long its
appeal for having a unique colour for biodegradable
going to take to biodegrade.
bags. According to participants, the logo needs to be
Woman, York, AB
instantly recognisable and mainstreamed so that it is
visually embedded in everyday experience. Suggestions
included a leaf, a tree or a kite. There was some support for the label to be endorsed by a
known agency the Environment Agency and the Soil Association both received a mention.
Some participants wanted to be reassured that the level of biodegradability was compliant
with a certain accreditation or standard.
Overall, participants said they would not spend much time reading the bag. The label would,
therefore, need to stand out, preferably be placed at the top of the bag, be instantly
recognisable and provide information on how long it takes to biodegrade. As previous
research71 and misunderstanding of different bag types being usually recyclable in this
research72 has shown there are barriers to recycling plastics correctly.
71

MEL Research for WRAP (2008). Barriers to recycling at home.


http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Barriers_to_Recycling_at_Home_Technical_Report.pdf An update is forthcoming.
72
See Section 4.3, 6.2 and table for Q27 in Annex 2.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

41

Interestingly, though, awareness of the compostable logos that are currently on the market
is low. Only a third of respondents (34%) have referred to the compostable packaging
symbol (see picture to the top right) although this is to be expected as this logo was used
solely for the London Olympics in the Summer of 2012; while one in ten (11%) have seen it
but not referred to it and the majority, over half (55%), have not seen it.
For the compostable leaf (see middle picture to the right) label only 17% had referred to it;
7% had seen but not referred to it and over three quarters (77%) had not seen it.
Awareness of the compostable flower symbol (see bottom picture to the right) was even
lower with only 14% referring to it; 5% having seen it but not referred to it; and four in five
respondents (81%) having never seen it.

7.0

Views on plastic carrier bag charge

With regard to the views on plastic carrier bag charge, the following key points have
emerged:
Almost three in five respondents supported the charge.
The main reason for supporting the charge was the general statement that plastic carrier
bags are bad for the environment.
Encouraging bag reuse and use of bags for life are seen as the main potential impacts of
the charge.
Exemptions were not easily understood exempting paper bags received support while
exempting small and medium size retailers was not be widely understood.
The environmental angle and more specifically the litter angle had mileage with
participants as a narrative supporting the charge, but they felt that the rationale and link
would need to be explained.
Participants suggested that a range of media, alongside in-store communications, would
be effective channels for communicating the introduction of the charge.
7.1

General awareness and initial reactions

What is the awareness level of the charge?


The charge was announced by Defra in September 2013 and it received substantial media
publicity at this time. However, there has not been a great deal of publicity since then,
outside of trade media. With this in mind, two in five respondents (37%) were not at all
aware that a charge would be implemented making it compulsory for retailers to charge for
single use plastic carrier bags from October 2015; while approximately a third (30%) stated
that they were very aware. The remaining third (33%) stated they were slightly aware.
From insights from the qualitative phase, those that said they were only slightly aware are
likely to mask respondents who effectively were not aware of the charge. These respondents
may, wish to appear informed; although some did mention that they might have heard
something on the news.
Older respondents (women over the age of 55 and men over the age of 65) were more likely
to be aware of the upcoming implementation of the charge in England. Rural residents were

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

42

more likely to be very aware of the charge. Thirty-seven per cent of rural residents were
very aware of the charge compared to 29% of suburban residents and 27% of urban
residents these differences are statistically significant. This may link back to age, as rural
residents were more likely to be in the older age categories (over 55 years old) this
difference was statistically significant.
Respondents were more aware of the charge in place in Wales, Northern Ireland and the
Republic of Ireland than the upcoming one in England:
Almost half (47%) stated that they were very aware of this charge in these countries;
Roughly a third (31%) stated that they were slightly aware; and
Approximately a quarter (23%) said they were not at all aware.
Younger respondents (below 34 years old) were less likely to be very aware of the
upcoming charge in England and those in place in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic
of Ireland. Social grades AB were more likely to be very aware of the charge in place in
Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland this difference was statistically significant.
This may relate to the wider awareness of this group in general and/or the type of media
and information to which they are exposed.
In the discussion groups some participants were aware that certain retailers (e.g. Aldi, Lidl,
Marks and Spencer and WHSmith etc.) charged customers for their plastic carrier bags.
What were the knee-jerk reactions to hearing about the charge?
Discussion group participants were asked to note down their individual initial reaction to the
following statement: A charge of 5p per single use plastic carrier bag is going to be

introduced in shops in England in October 2015, with the money going to good causes.
There is already a charge like this in Wales and one soon to be introduced in Scotland.

From this initial exercise, the overall sentiment towards the charge was positive. General
supportive statements of it being a good idea and good for charity/good cause were
mentioned. Others, however, made more specific claims including that the charge would
encourage: remembering own bags, bag re-use, purchase of bags for life and reducing the
number of bags being thrown away.
There were quite a few neutral responses which were not necessarily supportive or overtly
against the charge. These responses were either questions or statements of indifference or
acceptance of the charge without any strong sentiments. The questions which were asked
included: what good causes?, would it be supporting UK good causes?, local good
causes?, is the charge too low to work? Some participants felt that what was meant by
good cause needed to be explicit with respect to who, where, how, and by how much they
would benefit. In some instances, participants wanted to understand the connection between
the good cause and the rationale behind implementing the plastic bag charge.
Those that reacted negatively mainly voiced distrust of Government and retailers fearing that
the charge would become a money-making scheme (e.g. the charge would fund services
that should be supported by the Government). Participants compared the charge with the
Big Lottery Fund. Other concerns included affordability of the 5p charge; not being able to
re-use plastic bags as free bin liners; feeling that the price of bags is already included in the
price of the goods; charity link encouraging plastic bag use;73 and some misunderstanding of
what a national charge would entail and, therefore, participants stating that they simply
would not pay it/would not want to pay it.

73

For more discussion on this theme see Section 7.3 and 7.5.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

43

Overall, there was a general sentiment that the charge was inconvenient but necessary.
The sentiment was, by and large, supported by the fact that participants acknowledged that
carrier bags were generally bad for the environment in general and that their use ought to
be reduced.
What were the general views about stores that already charge?
When asked about their views on some stores in the United Kingdom now charging for single
use plastic carrier bags, the most popular response, selected by three in five respondents
(57%) was it encourages people to use their own bags and bags for life more, followed by
two in five respondents (37%) stating it encourages people to use fewer single use plastic
carrier bags and a third (34%) stating that its a good idea generally. These potential
impacts chime with the initial reactions and attitudes voiced in the discussion groups outlined
in Section 7.1 above.
And I think subconsciously that
[forgetting own bags] is partly
because theyre free for me.
There is no incentive financially
to not behave like that, is
there?

Man, Exeter, C1C2

Overall respondents views on stores charging for


plastic carrier bags can be grouped in five camps
these categories were not generated from a
spontaneous list by respondents but were informed by
the Exodus research and insights form the discussion
groups. The five camps were:

Practical changes - promoting better use of bags for life and own bags;
Broad statements claiming the charge is either generally a good or bad idea (only 7%

stated it was a bad idea while 28% stated it was a good idea);
Environmental reasons supporting stores choosing to charge for plastic carrier bags;
Suggestions that it would/should encourage different shopping habits and behaviours
(e.g. better planning of shopping trips); and
Distrust that it would make a difference (9% selected it makes no difference) and that
stores would make money from the charge (20% selected this option).
7.2
Potential impacts on shopping behaviours
How could the charge affect shopping behaviours?
Collectively, 61% of respondents stated that their bag use behaviour would change positively
as a result of the charge. Individually, two in five respondents (40%) stated that the charge
would make them use their bags for life more often; over a third (35%) stated that they
would use their own bags more often; and a quarter (24%) stated that they would use
previously used plastic carrier bags more. See Figure 15 below.
This illustrates the potential there is for changing bag use behaviour as a result of this
charge, as these respondents, who projected they would make positive changes to their
behaviour, were also more likely to be the ones who had claimed earlier in the survey that
they used new plastic bags and did not make frequent use of bags for life for their food
shopping.74 It is worth remembering that these are projections based on what respondents
claimed the impact of the charge on their shopping habits would be.

74

These respondents are more likely to have selected I usually (but not always) take plastic carrier bags from the till to pack
my shopping and I sometimes take plastic carrier bags from the till to pack my shopping for their main and top-up shop at
Q17 and these respondents are less likely to have stated that use bags for life every time I go food shopping at Q23.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

44

Figure 15 Potential impacts of charge on shopping habits (England Base: 1,538, Q36,
multiple responses up to three)*

Two in five respondents (39%) also said that it would make no difference to their behaviour.
However, respondents who selected this option were significantly more likely to have
claimed that they never take plastic carrier bags from the till and hence the charge would
have limited capacity to change their behaviour anyhow. This group were also significantly
more likely to be strongly in favour of a charge. Finally, these respondents were significantly
more likely to be over 55 years old. There were no other significantly relevant differences
with regard to socio-demographics.
Those that selected it would make no difference were then asked why this was the case
(Figure 16). Three in five respondents (62%) stated it was because they already use
alternatives to plastic carrier bags and a third (33%) stated that they did not use that many
plastic carrier bags.

Asterisks denotes that the full answer option read 'I would use my own bags (such as a rucksack, foldaway bags or trolleys)
more often' - it has been shorten to better fit in the graph.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

45

Figure 16 Reasons why the charge would not make a difference to shopping habits
(England Base: 593 All those claiming that charge would not make a difference to what they
do, Q37, multiple responses)

For the sub-sample of respondents who do not think the charge will not make a difference
and who do not use alternatives, one barrier they face is accepting that they actually do use
plastic carrier bags. Of those who said I dont use many plastic carrier bags only a third
(35%) claimed to never take plastic carrier bags from the till and only two-fifths (38%)
stated that they brought their bags for life either every or most times they went food
shopping. There is a degree of denial/under-claim of plastic carrier bag use amongst this
group.
A second barrier to be overcome is the habitual convenience of taking plastic carrier bags
from the till. However, it is worth remembering that this is a minority of the total sample
(227 respondents or 15%). There is always bound to be a minority that does not believe that
the charge can affect their shopping habits. Section 7.5 explores which messages were felt
to be most motivational by discussion group participants, which may help to overcome
longstanding habits.
Women were more likely to have said they already use alternatives to plastic carrier bags;
this is especially true for women over the age of 55- this difference is statistically significant.
Those that selected this option were less likely to have said they always and usually take
plastic carrier bags at the till for the main and top-up shop therefore, there is consistency
in their claimed behaviour.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

46

7.3

Level of support and concern

What are the general levels of support and opposition?


Three in five respondents (57%) were in favour of the charge75. This was made of up 32%
who were strongly in favour, 25% who were slightly in favour. One in five respondents
(23%) was against the charge. This was made up of 10% being slightly against and 12%
being strongly against.76 A further one in five respondents (20%) did not know. This was
made up of 16% saying they were not sure and 4% saying they do not have an opinion.

Theyre [plastic carrier bags]


just too readily available. Its
too easy to just pick them up
and stick your stuff in it. We all
know theyre bad for the
environment, for everything, but
we still do it just because we
can. If they remove them like
they do on the continent or in
Wales where youve got to pay
for them you wouldnt use them.
If I had to pay 5p every time
theres no way.

Those strongly in favour of the charge were more


likely to be older and in social grades A or B. They
were also more likely to be very aware of the charge.
This may suggest that those who are more informed
are, in turn, more likely to be supportive of the
charge. Younger survey respondents (less than 34
years of age) were less likely to be in favour of the
charge. The Exodus research came to a similar
conclusion.

A remark which was frequently made towards the end


of the discussion groups was to question why plastic
Woman, London, C1C2
carrier bags were not simply banned altogether, if
they posed such an environmental concern/stress on
resources? Participants often compared the plastic bag charge with the smoking indoors ban
and felt that a full-blown ban, i.e. retailers providing no plastic carrier bags, should take
place.
What are the reasons for supporting the charge?
Of those in favour, three in five respondents (64%) selected plastic carrier bags are bad for
the environment as a reason. This sentiment, was shared by many participants in the
discussion groups, however when asked why they were bad for the environment, knowledge
was limited with a few mentions of it is generally good to use less and not be wasteful. Over
half (54%) of respondents said they were in favour of the charge because they wanted to
avoid plastic carrier bags ending up in landfill. A third of respondents (32%) mentioned
preventing harm to animals from plastic carrier bag litter and a further third (32%) said
avoiding creating more litter was a reason for their support.
Figure 17 shows all the reasons given in support of the charge it should be noted that a lot
of the statements provided in the questionnaire had an environmental theme, which means
these options had a higher probability of being chosen (respondents were asked to select up
to 3 reasons). However, the statements in the questionnaire were informed by feedback
from the discussion groups, and, therefore, the survey was used to quantify the extent to
which these reasons are prevalent amongst consumers.
No meaningful significant differences by socio-demographic groups were found for reasons
given in support of the charge. The one exception was that older respondents (55+) were
more likely to have selected plastic carrier bags are bad for the environment.

75
76

Question: To what extent are you in favour or against a national charge of 5p for plastic carrier bags across England?
Numbers do not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

47

Figure 17 Reasons for supporting the charge (Base: 882 All those in favour of the charge,
Q39, multiple responses up to three and ranked, any mention)

The order of the three answer options for supporting the charge ranked first correlates with
the order of the first three answer options in Figure 17 showing all mentions in any ranked
position:
A third of respondents (31%) ranked Plastic carrier bags are bad for the environment
first ranking.
A fifth of respondents (18%) ranked To avoid plastic carrier bags ending up in landfill as
first ranking.
One in ten respondents (9%) ranked To prevent ham to animals form plastic carrier bag
litter as first ranking.
In the discussion groups, supporting a good cause (and in particular a local good cause)
seemed to receive more traction as a reason to support the charge than in the survey.
However, when discussing the different narratives provided to participants to consider (see
Section 3 in Annex 1), they began to question the suitability of linking a good cause to
charging for plastic bags this is discussed in Section 7.5.
What are the reasons for opposing the charge?
The most popular reasons selected for opposing the charge were linked to a broader issue of
distrust of Government and supermarkets, rather than the mechanics or rationale of the
charge. Of those in opposition:
Three in five respondents (58%) stated that it was just a way for supermarkets to make
more money;
Half of respondents (52%) stated that it was just another way for Government to make
money; and
Over two-fifths (45%) stated that they did not believe the money will end up with good
causes.
Figure 18 shows the more detailed breakdown of the answer options.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

48

Figure 18 Reasons for opposing the charge (Base: 349 All those against the charge, Q40,
multiple responses up to three and ranked, any mention)

The order of the three answer options most frequently ranked first as reason for not
supporting the charge correlates with the order of the first three answer options in Figure 18
showing all mentions in any ranked position:
Over a third of respondents (35%) ranked it was just a way for supermarkets to make
more money first;
A quarter of respondents (25%) ranked it was just another way for Government to make
money first; and
One in ten (10%) ranked I do not believe the money will end up with good causes first.
As discussed in Section 5, being provided with a bag to take your goods home in was
considered an intrinsic part of the shopping experience by several discussion group
participants when it comes to non-food purchases - mainly clothes. However, in the survey
only 8% of respondents selected this option. This low response may be explained by two
factors: (1) respondents were invited to make a selection of the top three reasons and,
despite being a factor, this may not be one of the main reasons why respondents are against
the charge; and (2) at this point in the survey respondents may now be mainly thinking
about food shopping where the experience element was not cited as being relevant in the
discussion groups.
At the discussion groups, being charged for bags for
an online food shop was questioned by some
participants. They contended that they would not be
Would they add that money on
able to control how many bags were used to pack
then to your online shopping,
their shopping and for those using online ordering for
however many bags they use?
their main food shop, it was recognised that the 5p
Women, Nottingham, CIC2
per bag charge may soon add up to a substantial
amount.
7.4
Exemptions from the scope of the charge
The charge in England will focus on plastic bags, with paper bags excluded from the scope of
the charge. The Government has also chosen to exempt small and medium size retailers (i.e.
those with fewer than 250 employees) from the plastic bag charge to reduce the burden on

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

49

start-up and growing businesses in England at a time when the Government is supporting
new growth in the economy. As part of this exemption, very small retailers (those with fewer
than 10 employees i.e. corner shops) are also exempt.
The Government has also issued a challenge to the UK to produce a genuinely
biodegradable, more environmentally friendly plastic bag that meets defined criteria and
which can be reliably identified and separated in waste recovery and treatment operations.
No such bag currently exists, so the Government is expecting an exemption for
biodegradable bags to be put in place later than October 2015.
The charge will also not cover light weight plastic bags usually used for loose fruit and
vegetables or uncooked meat and fish. The data gathered on this potential exemption is
included for the sake of completeness.
At the time when this research was designed, the Government was considering an
exemption for plastic bags used for hot food or hot drinks. However, following feedback from
stakeholders, the Government has decided against including this exemption. The data
gathered on this potential exemption is included for the sake of completeness.
In the discussion groups, participants were asked for their levels of support or concern for
these potential exemptions. Some of the participants initially struggled with the notion of
excluding certain businesses and/or bags from a national, across- the-board charge. They
found some exemptions inconsistent with the ethos and their understanding of a national
charge.
Figure 19 represents respondents reactions to three pairs of words when associated with
each exemption. The three sets of words are: confusing or clear; surprising or expected
and unfair or fair. For each pair and for each exemption respondents had to select one
word.
Figure 19 General stance on exemptions proposed (Base: 1,538, Q41, single code)

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

50

Survey respondents appeared to struggle most with


the concept of smaller and medium retailers and,
to a lesser extent, of the very small retailers being
exempt from the charge. Three in five respondents
found the exemption of small and medium retailers
confusing (59%) and an equal number found it
Woman, York, AB
surprising (61%). Half of respondents (51%) found it
fair whilst the other half thought it was unfair (49%).
Older respondents (over the age of 55) were more likely to find the exemption confusing.
Those that were strongly in favour of charge were more likely to find an exemption of small
and medium, and very small retailers unfair.
Small retailers do suffer and they
dont have the buying power and
they dont have the sustainability
of a large supermarket, so you
could possibly give them tax
breaks

You cant really can you. If


youre going to do it in
supermarkets, youve got to do it
to everybody havent you,
because if you want to get rid of
plastic bags youve got to do it
across the board, havent you?

Man, Exeter, C1C2

The exemption of small retailers caused a lot of debate


in the discussion groups with some participants
understanding the need to support small businesses
and the additional burden that the charge would bring
upon them. By contrast, many participants in the
discussion groups could not understand why any
retailers (irrespective of size) would be exempt, if the
ambition of the charge was to reduce the number of
plastic bags used across the board.

Out of all the exemptions, the exclusion of paper bags from the charge seemed to make
most sense to discussion group participants. Many saw paper as an environmentally friendly,
natural material that can be recycled. Some participants saw paper as definitely
biodegradable so it made sense for it to be exempt on that perspective. A minority made the
point about paper deriving from a good natural resource (as opposed from plastic coming
from oil); while an even smaller minority made the point that paper bags should only be
exempt if produced from recycled paper or a sustainable forest. Many participants were
pragmatic and saw the necessity of certain bags, (e.g. fruit and vegetable bags) and felt that
the least bad material they could be made from was paper. This support for the exemption
of paper bags is reinforced by the survey results. Four in five respondents found the
exemption of paper bags clear (82%), expected (79%) and fair (80%). Respondents that
were strongly against the charge were more likely to find exempting paper bags confusing
and unfair.
The proposition of excluding biodegradable bags from the charge caused debate in the
discussion groups, more so than the quantitative findings would suggest. Overall, between
three-quarters and four-fifths of the survey respondents found the biodegradable bags
exemption expected (76%), clear (77%) and fair (81%). Respondents that were strongly
against the charge were more likely to find a biodegradable bag exemption confusing and
unfair. In contrast, some participants in the discussion groups were adamant that
biodegradable bags were still plastic and involved the use of resources and, therefore,
should not be exempt. Others, however, stated that if the bags biodegraded within a predefined time period then they would support their exemption.
The practical, health and safety, and hygienic reasons behind potentially excluding
lightweight plastic bags (e.g. to pick, carry and pay for loose fruit and vegetables) plastic
bags for take-away hot food or drinks were understood by participants. Approximately threefifths or more of respondents suggested that the potential exemption of these types of bags
was clear, expected and fair. However, discussion group participants were keen to see
alternatives developed and used (e.g. biodegradable bags, paper pouches with a film strip
for easy scanning/inspection at the check-out, etc.). To further substantiate this last
qualitative insight, respondents who were strongly in favour of the charge were more likely

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

51

to find the potential exemption of plastic bags for take-away hot food or drinks surprising
and unfair.
7.5

Communications

Yes youll be less inclined to just let


them blow away in the wind if you had
to pay for them.

Woman, London, DE

It will reduce litter, it might not be


the main reason, but there will be
other reasons, but one of the results
will be it will reduce litter.
Woman, Exeter, AB

The groups favourite was about the


money going to a good cause, because
we all agreed with that.

What is the most effective issue-framing for


public buy-in?
In the discussion groups different narratives were
tested to understand which motivators and
messages appealed the most (see Section 3 in
Annex 1).
Participants initially had difficulties making a
connection between a charge for carrier bags and
litter, but most eventually could see a direct link
and because it would help to reduce litter
became one of the most favoured messages
tested. Many, however, did say that it could not
be the only reason why the charge was being
implemented but could be one of a package of
reasons. Furthermore, participants felt that the
charge could deter people from disposing of
plastic bags irresponsibly.

Man, Nottingham, C1C2

From the discussion groups, participants initially


liked the idea that the money from the charge
went to a good cause. However, the survey
results (Figure 17) suggested that supporting good
And its just ridiculous, its going to
causes is not the main reason why respondents
clash, its either got to be one or the
are supportive of the charge - environmental
other I think. How can they say were
reasons took precedence. An interesting debate
going to give this for charity but
actually the carrier bags are a big
which unfolded in the discussion groups was the
problem, its not sort of going handbacklash risk or rebound effect by encouraging
in-hand is it.
customers to purchase a bag because the money
Woman, Exeter, C1C2
goes to a good cause. Several participants
commented on how it seemed illogical to, on the
one hand, state that plastic bags need to be reduced as they are bad for the environment,
create litter, take-up valuable resources to produce, etc. and, on the other hand, state that
by purchasing a plastic carrier bag a charity/good cause will directly benefit.
The issue which came up frequently in the
discussion groups was the need for transparency
Its alright to say its to good causes
in both where the money would go and why the
but if were talking about helping the
charge is being implemented. Participants felt
environment and having biodegradable
that the rationale for why the charge was being
bags and youre paying 5p for one
single use wheres the benefit then to
implemented needed to be clear, direct, relevant
the environment?
and consistent (e.g. breaking plastic bag habits
Woman, York, C1 C2
changing behaviours to re-use bags reducing
litter). For example, if the main aim was to
reduce the number of plastic bags in circulation
then this should be the leading message. This need for trust and transparency in the
message is further supported by the fact that the main opposition to the charge was the
perception that it was a money-making scheme for supermarkets and Government, rather
than a resistance to the mechanics of the charge.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

52

How should the charge be communicated?

Remember when the no smoking


ban came in, so it would have to be
that kind of a campaign that
everybody knows from this particular
date theyre going to have to buy,
you know pay so much for a bag,
have notices up, have it on the TV,
the radio, in newspapers, and then if
youre going in the shop you know, it
saves.
Woman, York, AB

It annoys people; just take them


away if its bad for the
environment. This is what I dont
like is that, you know if smoking is
that bad for people, do away with
cigarettes, but no they keep selling,
you know, they still put them in. If
it costs the NHS so much, it does
go into a political debate but if its
that bad for the environment, if its
that unhealthy, get rid. So its
trickery.

Woman, London, C1C2

Some suggestions from the discussion groups


included having in-store stands that would provide
customers with more information on both the
rationale behind the charge and the goals it hoped
to achieve (e.g. posters, leaflets, case studies,
etc.). Prompts placed in car parks and at front-ofstore reminding customers of the charge coming
into force and to bring their own bags were other
ideas suggested. Use of media in the form of TV,
social media, billboards and radio were also
suggested by participants. Several participants
likened a future plastic bag charge campaign to
the one that accompanied the indoor smoking ban.
The study found evidence that participants
responses were in some cases affected by social
desirability, i.e wanting to be seen to be doing the
right thing for the environment.77 The research
suggests that this could be taken into account in
communicating of the charge.
In terms of key demographics, the younger
respondents (less than 34 years of age) were less
likely to be in favour of the charge. The Exodus
research came to a similar conclusion. There were
no main differences to the reasons why they
oppose the charge compared to others (see Section
7.3) with perhaps more of an accentuation on
lifestyle/habits, convenience, and hassle and for
some, distrust.

The most receptive groups were men over 65; women over 45; and social grades AB. These
groups are also more like to be very aware of the charge coming into force in England
which may suggest that communication methods and media previously used are the most
appropriate for this group.
8.0

Concluding remarks

This research via eight discussion groups and an online survey of 1,538 respondents
addressed these research questions:
What are the (stated) attitudes and behaviours among adults in England around use and
re-use of carrier bags and Bags for Life, carrier bag litter and disposal of plastic bags?
What are the levels of awareness, understanding and expectations of biodegradable
bags?
What are peoples attitudes towards the forthcoming charge and where it may be applied?
What narratives and messages may act as effective motivators to engage the public with
the new scheme? Do these vary for particular groups of people?

77

See Section 1.4 and Annex 3 on over/under claim of behaviour, references to forgetting bags for life in Section 4.3 and to
guilt in disposing of plastic carrier bags in Section 6.2.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

53

In terms of a baseline of behaviours and attitudes, it is felt to be likely that respondents


have under-claimed their use of single use plastic carrier bags and over-claimed their use of
own bags/bags for life when food shopping. This assumption is based on the comparisons
between stated and observational data on bag use in a study on carrier bag use conducted
in Wales and Scotland by Exodus Market Research and the inconsistencies in responses on
claimed behaviour around bag use in this research. It should be noted that the research in
England was limited by not including observational work.
On occasions where respondents claimed to have not taken new single use plastic carrier
bags from the till, environmental reasons were cited most frequently, with practical
considerations (bag strength) also featuring highly. Over half of respondents stated that
forgetting their own bags is the reason why they do not always use them and, therefore,
resort to using new single use plastic carrier bags. About two thirds of respondents claimed
to use bags for life from home about half of the times they go food shopping or more, but
only a third claimed to have used bags for life from home on their last food shopping trip for
half or more of their items. This would suggest there was over-claim in the use of bags for
life as well; though not as high as the claimed use of bags for life in the Exodus research.
The focus of this research was on food shopping, with limited scope to explore non-food
shopping. Both the qualitative and quantitative phases of this research found different
attitudes and behaviours around bag use when it comes to non-food purchases, especially
clothes where the shopping experience, image and treating oneself all comes into the mix.
With regard to biodegradable bags, the research found the term biodegradable was poorly
understood. This resulted in many respondents and participants sitting on the fence when
asked about their attitudes, potential behaviours and expectations towards biodegradable
bags. There was also a lot of confusion amongst respondents as to how they would expect
to dispose of biodegradable bags. Participants and respondents were equally unsure about
the length of time a biodegradable bag should take to break down guesses ranged widely
with slight peaks at one year and three to six months. Respondents suggested the use of
labels and logos for identification of biodegradability (particularly as it was found from
discussion group insights that few would carefully read any information printed on a bag).
Almost three-fifths of respondents support the charge on plastic carrier bags. Encouraging
bag re-use and use of bags for life are seen as the key potential behavioural impacts of the
charge. The main themes that have surfaced in this research are environmental motivators
(e.g. reducing litter, using less resources), practical and human barriers (e.g. forgetting your
own bags, unplanned shopping), and self-image concerns - specifically for clothes shopping.
Appealing to the environmental benefits of the charge (such as reducing carrier bag litter by
reducing the number of plastic bags) seemed to be the narrative that had most traction
regarding publicising the charge. The good cause message may initially raise interest and
support for the charge, as illustrated firstly in the discussion groups, but risks causing
confusion around the rationale and intent of the charge in the longer term.
This research suggests that a number of segments of the population may be less receptive
to the charge: Younger consumers (under the age of 34); men, slightly more than women;
and those that tend to do top-up shops regularly. The most receptive groups were found to
be men over 65; women over 45; and social grades AB. This more receptive sub-set are also
more like to be very aware of the charge coming into force in England which may suggest
that communication methods and media previously used are the most appropriate for this
group.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

54

Annex 1: Topic guide for discussion groups


Time

Instructions

5 mins

Introduction

5 mins

Purpose of section

Introduce yourself and Brook Lyndhurst


Toilets, fire drills, mobile phones
Purpose of groups:
o To discuss your shopping habits
Explain the need for honesty
Healthy debate no answer is right or wrong, want to understand their views
Will ask that people dont speak over each other and to allow each other the time to speak
o recorder cant pick up whats happening if everyone talks at once
Do want to hear about everyone
Confidential, but recorded
o voice recording used as back-up
o get permission
Anything discussed in these groups need to remain confidential to this group of people

Intro and warm up.

[Icebreaker] Quick intro to each other in pairs who you are, who you live with, where you usually go food
shopping. No feedback to group because the start of Section 1 is a follow-on ice-breaker
Es

N/A

Pre-group starter - while group is assembling ask for self-completion of bag baseline questions

N/A

GIVE OUT HANDOUT A: Brief baseline of bag use, individual exercise drawing from previous surveys
Purpose:
To get participants thinking about food shopping and bags but careful not to introduce too much
priming.
To anchor own behaviour before the influence of group dynamic.
Useful back-check for moderator when completing post-group notes re. possible over-claiming of re-use.

Framing individual participant


roots their recent, personal
experience, before being exposed
to group norms.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

55

25
mins

Section 1 Bag use and re-use

[30
mins]

To get us started Id like everyone to have a look at the bags you each brought in. Can we get them all
out on the table?
If you didnt manage to bring anything are these the kinds of bag you used for your last food shopping
trip?
Is there anything you used that isnt here?

FOR ALL, GROUP DISCUSSION:

Are these the kinds of bags you normally use to pack your food shopping in?
Do you ever use anything else? What else? When?

PROBE whether brand makes a difference as opposed to bag type and general awareness of options that exist

Establish what is used: park REASONS for later discussion. PROBE FULLY: Make sure you have a good
understanding of the range of practices (including portfolio users who use a variety of bags either in the
same trip or on different occasions).

Do you take bags at check out when you go food shopping? Why? Why not?
How often do you take bags from check out?
On what occasions would you pick up bags at check out? PROBE: Quantity of shopping? Type of item
bought?
On your most recent food shopping trip, did the check-out staff member ask if you needed bags? Start
packing for you? PROBE: Did you decline/accept? What do you tend to do?
When you unpack your food shopping at home, what do you normally do with the bags?

To reveal whole range of practices


to whole group. To reinforce no
right/wrong answers to support
honest responses and
acceptability of differences
between individuals.
To reveal current practice without
social desirability bias (i.e. saying
re-use because of an expectation
that is what the moderator wants
to hear)
To establish, for participants,
context and framing for
discussions in sections 2 & 3

START WITH OPEN DISCUSSION WITHOUT REFERENCE TO BAG TYPE to elicit range of practices. IF
NECESSARY, STEER DISCUSSION TO DIFFERENT BAG TYPES IN TURN. PROBE if not mentioned:

Disposal: Do you put the bags in the rubbish bin straight away? Keep for other uses first? Bin liners
then bin?

Recycling: How do you recycle them? Where? (e.g. home recycling, front-of-store banks,

tip/recycling centre, etc.) All or some? Always or at times? How confident are you about recycling the
bags?
Kept: What kind of bags do you keep? Where are they stored (e.g. car, handbag, in the house)?
Stored in the hope of re-use? Actually re-used? How are they re-used? (e.g. to carry a packed
lunch).

To check whether participants in


relevant groups know about
kerbside recycling provision for
plastic bags.
To focus in on re-use but
pitched to retain inclusion of nonreusers.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

56

IF HASNT ALREADY COME UP Do you ever, or have you ever considered, bringing bags from home
when you go food shopping?

PROBE:

What are these bags like? (PROBE: Bag for Life, own bag, durability other) Like the ones you brought
this evening? How long do they last?
How often do you take one with you? (PROBE: establish regular users/occasional users)
What influences whether or not you take a bag with you when you go food shopping (whether a Bag
for Life or own bag etc)? (PROBE: attitudes, competencies, trip types (e.g. planned/impromptu),

remembering).
Were going to look at pictures of a range of different options for transporting your food shopping and Id
like to get your reactions. SHOW HANDOUT B (bag-type images): ask individually about each bag type

(six options) FOCUS DISCUSSION on differences between SUCB vs BFL and any dislikes and build on
previous discussion on carrier bags the use/brought.

What do you call this type of bag?


Do you like this bag? Do you use it? What are the advantages of this kind of bag? Either too
personally or generally?
Do you dislike this type of bag? And the disadvantages?
What differences do you see between the bag types? (PROBE: SUCB vs BFL)

NON-FOOD SHOPPING:
And if we think about other types of shopping, not food - which kinds of bags/containers do you
normally use/take?
o PROBE: Clothing/ fashion shops secondary focus: DIY and hardware shops, chemists,
electrical shops, entertainment shops (e.g. selling books, DVDs, Toys, gifts, games, etc.)
How would you feel about using types of bags other than normal carrier bags/plastic bags in these
kinds of shops? REFER TO PICTURE LIST. PROBE FULLY. e.g.
o Would the brand/logo/type matter? (e.g. probe acceptability for fashion retailers in different
markets)

To explore
attitudes/competencies that
support bag reuse and
attitudes/barriers preventing it
To try to get honest answers
about bag reuse, to help with
assessment of over-claiming in
survey data as well as qual insight
directly by acting as a double
check with pre-task, individual
exercise and earlier discussion.
Specific exploration of:
Perceptions of pros and cons
of different bag types
Further check on actual re-use
behaviours
Language, hooks etc that
could be built into re-use
narratives or in relation to
charge narratives

To identify similarities or
differences in attitudes/potential
behaviour from food shopping
context above.
To reveal awareness and strength
of views on plastic bag litter, and
set context for later discussions
related to litter.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

57

o
o
o

Would you be happy to take another branded bag (e.g. supermarket bag) to these kinds of
store?
Would you be happy taking your own bag to these shops? PROBE: feelings
Impact of if there was a stores own branded Bag for Life (in context of previous discussion)

To build on the disadvantages


spontaneously mentioned post
Handout B exercise.

Going back to carrier bags/plastic bags:

What positive/negative effects, if any, do you think plastic bags have?


PROMPT: Any environmental effects? PROBE What effect, if any, do you think they have on litter? Do
they degrade?
Is that something you see around you? Or is it something that you think about generally?
How big a problem do you think litter from plastic bags is? Who do you think is responsible for this?
(individuals/retailers/council not keeping streets clean or providing bins)How much does it concern
you?

25
mins

Section 2 Bio-degradable bags

[55
mins]

Id like us to consider an alternative to the kind of carrier bags/plastic bags we have now. Researchers are
working on ways to make plastic bags that are (more) bio-degradable.
Have you heard of the term bio-degradable?
What do you understand by the term bio-degradable
(PROBE for confusion with other terms (e.g. compostable, degradable, oxo-degradable, oxo-

biodegradable, fragments) Have you heard of these terms? Do you understand them to be the
same/different?
If you saw that a bag was labelled as biodegradable how much time do you think it should take to break
down completely (until it was no longer visible)? Dont say it out loud: write your first reaction on the post-it
note in front of you and well discuss shortly.

POST-ITS: shout out times, establish range (note-taker to note any links with expressed bag
attitudes/behaviour)
What makes you think that? (e.g. is it a guess or founded on something else?)

To get a quick sense of levels of


understanding / confusion.

Use post-it exercise - to reveal


initial impression of the timedimension to bio-degradability
useful data and it will frame and
anchor the subsequent
discussion.

Use flip chart to note ranges.


To explore various aspects of

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

58

Generally, what is your reaction to the idea of bio-degradable/compostable plastic bags?


(INTRODUCE BAGS)
o What do you like about them? Dislike? PROBE: How they look? How they feel? (e.g.
appearance, feel)
o What do you think are the advantages? Disadvantages?
o Do you think the length of time for breaking down would be different in different
environments e.g. land/sea? Does this matter?
If single use plastic bags were biodegradable would that change any of your views about plastic bags
and litter?
Is there an acceptable limit on the amount of time it takes a bag to break down for it to be called
biodegradable?
How would you be able to judge whether a plastic bag was biodegradable?
What information would you like to see, and where, to tell you that a bag is biodegradable? PROBE:
how would you feel about a label or if biodegradable bags were a different colour?
If biodegradable bags became widespread in supermarkets/food shops, what would you expect to be
able to do with them? PROBE FOR:
Disposal:
o
o
o

No change in current practice ([i.e. no different to current disposal of SUCB)


Home composting, normal waste / black bin, kerbside recycling, other recycling points
Food waste collections: does it change perceptions of whether or not plastic bags can be
used as wrappers?

Re-use: for shopping, as bin bags?

35
mins

Section 3 Single-use carrier bag charge and narratives

[90
mins]

Give out HANDOUT C reaction sheets


Im going to read out a statement and I would like you to write down your first reaction in the speech bubble
on this sheet, whatever it is.
READ OUT: A charge of 5p per single use plastic carrier bag is going to be introduced in shops in England in
October 2015, with the money going to good causes. There is already a charge like this in Wales and one

understanding, potential
confusion (e.g. to address in
comms), and relationship with
litter attitudes.
To explore how bio-degradability
needs to be communicated, and
issues of recognition and trust.
Importantly, this sub-section
establishes the context and
provides grounding for the
discussion of bio-degradable bags
as a possible exemption from the
charge in section 3.
To reveal expectations, and
potential change in practices and
flag possible contamination or
capture risks for recycling. Probe
fully in locations where food
waste is collected.

To elicit first reactions to the idea


of a charge without the influence
of the group dynamic.
To provide a respondent-led start
point for a discussion of the

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

59

soon to be introduced in Scotland.

charging proposition.

COLLECT REACTION SHEETS, ROUGH SORT, MODERATOR FEEDBACK TO GROUP TO KICK-OFF DISCUSSION

To hear spontaneous mention of


aspects that narratives would
need to respond to.

Some people said XXXXX why was that?


Others said XXX

To search the extent of consensus


without social desirability bias.

PROBE throughout FOR (and note-taker to record):

IF

Consensus
Confusion or questions they have about how it would work
Personal versus generalised focus for individual views (e.g. good for me/good for the environment)
NOT MENTIONED, PROBE:
Did you already know about the charge? How?
What do you think the benefits of a 5p charge would be?
And what would be the drawbacks?
If you had to communicate the charge to the general public how would you do it?
Who should the communication come from? Who would they trust? E.g. local authority, retailers,
Government from the top, scientists, environmental/wildlife charities, good causes set to benefit from
charge, etc.

NARATIVES: BREAK OUT EXERCISE (2 groups, split according to attitudes based on screener data, each

group getting 3 statements each)

GIVE OUT HANDOUT D 5 to 10 minutes max


Narratives tested were:
I am in favour of charging 5 pence for each single-use plastic carrier bag because it would help to
reduce litter

I am more willing to pay a 5 pence charge for a single-use plastic carrier bag if the money goes to a
good cause

I am in favour of charging 5 pence for each single-use plastic carrier bag because this will avoid
needless waste
5 pence is not enough to change peoples behaviour and encourage them to use fewer single use
plastic carrier bags

To begin to focus in on aspects


that narratives would need to
speak to - but still unprompted,
participant-led. Useful for eliciting
non-expert language and
concerns that are not evident
from expert perspective.

To explore prompted narratives


which draw on previous survey
research findings and the
questionnaire in tender
documentation

Facilitator to focus on resonance


rather than designing strap lines.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

60

A 5 pence charge on single use plastic carrier bags is not fair it is just another expense for shoppers
It is not reasonable to expect shoppers to carry bags with them all of the time so they can re-use them

Wed like you to consider some statements that other people have made about the charge and get your
reactions to them (you may have mentioned some of them already). Please discuss your thoughts in
your group and write any comments you want to make on each statement sheet, then well come back
together to discuss them. You can use the sheet to write down anything else your group thinks would be
useful information to communicate to the public.
PLENARY DISCUSSON, TAKING NARRATIVES IN TURN. PROBE FOR:
Do you believe the statement? How does make you feel?
Is it clear? Confusing?
How would you improve the statement? Change it? Make is more persuasive?
What do you think of the language used? Tone?
Positives probe: amount of natural resources used up, pollution of sea and damage on wildlife and

reducing landfill
Negative probe: just another government tax and money goes straight to supermarkets/retailers

BEHAVIOUR IMPACT
Going back again to thinking about what you do personally:
What, if any, difference would a 5p charge make to which types of bag you choose to use when you
go food shopping? Why?
o No change
o Use fewer single-use carrier bag
o Switching behaviours, especially to Bag for Life or own bags
And what effect would it have on the bags you use in other kinds of shops you visit?

To explore potential behaviour


impacts in the context of
section 1 discussion

To explore views about


exemptions grounded in section
1 & 2 discussions

Close-out
To get individual sense of
whether views have changed and
key touch points

It is possible that some types of bag will be exempted/excluded from the charge, specifically paper,
biodegradable and small lightweight plastic bags (like fruit and vegetable bags), and bags coming from
small retailers.

Bearing in mind what we talked about earlier, if this were the case, would your views be any
different:
o About whether you think the charge is a good idea or not? Are these exemptions right/fair?

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

61

Would you want to know WHY these exemptions have been made?
o

About whether you would change the kinds of bag you use/where you shop?

[PROBE choice trade-offs with bags for life, other kinds of bag]

Taking into account everything youve heard tonight about the 5p charge for single use carrier bags, on
balance:

Did your views change at all during the discussion? How? Why?
Are you in favour of or against a charge?

Thank and close - distribute incentives


o WRAP/DEFRA the client does not endorse or promote any particular brand or
product purely shown for research purposes illustrative.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

62

Annex 2: Top line questionnaire results


The following document presents the top line results from the quantitative phase of the

RAK013-001 Carrier Bag Usage and Attitudes Consumer Research in England.


The survey was carried out by ICM on behalf of Brook Lyndhurst and WRAP from March
12th to 24th 2014 with a base of 1,538.
The survey was carried out online using computer assisted web interviewing with
members of ICMs New Vista Panel and third party panel GMI.
The sample of 1,538 was nationally representative of the population by region, social
grade, age and gender. The latter two were interlocked. Weighting values fell between
0.88 and 1.17, with a mean of 1.0033 and standard deviation of 0.058. The effective
sample was, therefore, 1,528.
All figures provided in this document are weighed to the population of England
For the full results in tables see separate document (pdf and Excel format). Demographics
and selected additional questions were used as cross breaks in these tables; these
questions are indicated in this document with an asterisk (*).
Where appropriate, responses have been ranked in order of prevalence. Note that where
questions are multicode - respondents could select more than one response and in certain
instances respondents could select a maximum of three options the percentages will not
add up to 100%, but are each calculated as a proportion of the base.
Answer options in single code questions may not add up to 100% exactly in the total. The
base for routed questions and the individual counts for questions compared to the total
may also vary slightly (by one or two respondents) due to weighting.
Instructions to ICM are included here in grey, questions from the Exodus survey are
indicated in bold.
Socio-demographics

1.

FOLLOWING QUESTION IS SAME AS EXODUS SURVEY (Q8.1)


SINGLE CODE
*1. Which of these statements best describes you? Please select one option

Base: 1,538 (all respondents)


Male, 1824 years
Male, 2534 years
Male, 3544 years
Male, 4554 years
Male, 5564 years
Male, 65 years+
Female, 1824 years
Female, 2534 years
Female, 3544 years
Female, 4554 years
Female, 5564 years
Female, 65 years+

%
6
8
9
8
7
10
6
8
10
9
8
11

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

Count
89
118
144
130
113
161
95
128
149
132
118
162

63

SINGLE CODE
Age band

Base: 1,538 (all respondents)


18
25
35
45
55
65

to 24
to 34
to 44
to 54
to 64
plus

%
12
16
19
17
15
21

Count
185
246
292
261
231
323

%
51
49

Count
784
754

SINGLE CODE
Gender

Base: 1,538 (all respondents)


Female
Male

FOLLOWING QUESTION IS SAME AS EXODUS SURVEY (Q8.2)


SINGLE CODE
*2. INCLUDING YOURSELF, how many people live in your household? Please select one option
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
Count
One person
19
299
Two people
40
611
Three people
18
282
Four people
16
244
Five people
5
70
Six or more people
2
32
FOLLOWING QUESTION IS SAME AS EXODUS SURVEY (Q8.3)
SINGLE CODE
*3. Do you have children aged under 15 years or under living in your household? Please select

one option
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)

%
24
76

Yes
No

Count
372
1,166

SINGLE CODE
*4. Social grade

Base: 1,538 (all respondents)


A
B
C1
C2
D
E

%
7
21
30
22
8
12

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

Count

112
319
461
338
124
184

64

FOLLOWING QUESTION IS SAME AS EXODUS SURVEY (Q8.4)


SINGLE CODE
*5. What is the job status of the main earner in the household? Please select one option
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
Full time
54
Part time
7
Selfemployed
8
Unpaid work (carer/charity)
0
Housewife or student
2
Unemployed (looking for work)
2
Long term sick / disabled
4
Other not working
1
Retired
22

Count
831
113
128
5
23
27
58
13
339

SINGLE CODE
*6. How would you describe where you live? Please select one option

Base: 1,538 (all respondents)


Urban
Suburban
Rural

%
35
45
20

Count
535
691
312

%
5
14
10
9
11
10
15
16
10

Count
77
215
154
138
169
154
231
246
154

SINGLE CODE
*7. In which region do you live? Please select one option

Base: 1,538 (all respondents)


North East
North West
York/Humberside
East Midlands
West Midlands
Eastern England
London
South East
South West

FOLLOWING QUESTION IS SAME AS EXODUS SURVEY (Q8.7)


OPEN
8. What is your postcode? Please type in your postcode. Please enter the letters in upper case and put a

space between the first group and the second group, e.g. AB1 2CD.
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
Provided
Would prefer not to say

%
98
2

Count
1,504
34

Food shopping behaviours


SINGLE CODE
*9. How much of the food shopping do you do in your household? Please select one option
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
I do all or most of it (i.e. the majority)
68
I do about half of it
I do some of it (i.e. the minority)
I dont do any of it SKIP TO Q21

25
5
2

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

Count
1,04
6
382
84
25

65

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q1.1)


SINGLE CODE
*10. Which of these statements best describes your food shopping habits? Please select one

option
Base: 1,513 (all those who do some food shopping)

I buy all my food in a main shopping trip


I buy some food in a main shopping trip and some in topup shopping trips trip - By

top-up shop we mean shopping for a small number of items to supplement your food at
home
I mostly buy food in smaller topup shopping trips - By top-up shop we mean
shopping for a small number of items to supplement your food at home

%
27
64

Count
409
969

135

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q1.2)


SINGLE CODE
*11. How often do you normally go to a shop or store to do your food shopping? Please select

one option
Base: 1,513 (all those who do some food shopping)

%
4
9
45
36
4
1
0

Every day or almost every day (6 or 7 times a week)


Most days (4 or 5 times a week)
About 2 to 3 times a week
About once a week
About once a fortnight
About once a month
Less than monthly

Count
55
133
684
550
66
19
6

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q1.3)


MULTICODE
12. Which of the following do you normally use to do your food shopping? Please select all options

that apply

Main shop

Base: 1,378 (do some of all


shopping in main shopping trip)
A large supermarket/superstore
A smaller supermarket from a chain
(e.g. Sainsburys Local, Tesco
Metro, Spar)
A small local/independent store
An internet site for online delivery
An internet site for ordering online
and then collecting in store
Other, please specify
Not applicable

Top-up shop

Base: 1,104 (do some or all


shopping in top-up shopping
trip)

%
89
9

Count
1,219
121

%
47
63

Count
521
699

3
16
2

46
226
23

36
5
2

398
54
18

1
0

8
2

2
1

25
9

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

66

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q1.9)


MULTICODE
13. Which of the following national supermarket chains do you use regularly for food
shopping? By regularly we mean at least once a month. Please select all options that apply both for your

main shop and for your top-up shops.


Base: 1,513 (all those who do some food shopping)

%
61
47
39
31
25
19
19
18
15
15
4
2
1
1
3

Tesco
Sainsburys
Asda
Morrisons
Aldi
Lidl
The Coop
Iceland
Marks & Spencer
Waitrose
Farm Foods
Budgens
Londis
Somerfield
Other, please specify

Count
930
704
590
466
379
292
291
275
232
222
66
25
16
13
45

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q1.4 & Q1.7)


SINGLE CODE
14. How do you normally get your food shopping home? Please select one option for each of main

shop and top-up shop

Main shop

Base: 1,378 (do


some of all
shopping in main
shopping trip)
By private car (mine or someone elses e.g. friend/family
member)
By taxi
By public transport
It is delivered to me by the store
Walking / on foot
By bicycle
Any other way (e.g. motorbike, moped, etc.)

Top-up shop

Base: 1,104 (do


some or all
shopping in
top-up
shopping trip)

%
74

Count
1,015

%
52

Count
579

1
6
11
8
0
0

15
76
154
106
5
6

0
9
1
36
1
1

5
96
9
392
13
9

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM TID QUESTION BANK (Q27)


SINGLE CODE
15. Have you ever had a bag-less food delivery? (by bag-less delivery we mean a food delivery
where items are delivered in crates or boxes rather than plastic carrier bags) Please select one

option
Base: 1,513 (all those who do some food shopping)
No I never have this
Yes I rarely have this
Yes I sometimes have this
Yes I very often have this
Yes I always have this
Cant remember

%
70
12
9
4
4
2

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

Count
1,062
183
130
53
59
25

67

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM TID QUESTION BANK (Q28)


SINGLE CODE. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER.
16. Please select the statement below that best matches your opinion of bag-less delivery
compared to a delivery with plastic carrier bags? Please select one option
Base: 426 (all those who have had a bag-less delivery)
% Count
I prefer a bag-less delivery because I dont need/have any use for more plastic carrier bags
11
48
I prefer a bag-less delivery because plastic carrier bags are not good for the environment
20
84
I prefer a bag-less delivery because it is a waste to use plastic carrier bags
19
81
I prefer a bag-less delivery because it is easier to unpack my shopping
11
45
I prefer a delivery with bags because it is useful to have plastic carrier bags in the house
13
56
I prefer a delivery with bags because it is easier to unpack my shopping
16
67
I prefer a delivery with bags because it is more hygienic
7
29
Other, please specify
4
17
SINGLE CODE. KEEP BOLD TEXT FOR FREQUENCY WORDS IN OPTIONS
*17. Thinking now about when you go food shopping, which of the following statements best
apply to you, when you do your MAIN food shop and when you do your TOP UP shop? Please

select one option for each of main shop and top-up shop

Main shop

Base: 1,378 (do


some of all
shopping in main
shopping trip)
I always take plastic carrier bags from the till to pack my
shopping
I usually (but not always) take plastic carrier bags from the till
to pack my shopping
I sometimes take plastic carrier bags from the till to pack my
shopping
I rarely take plastic carrier bags from the till to pack my
shopping
I never take plastic carrier bags from the till to pack my
shopping

Top-up shop

Base: 1,104 (do


some or all
shopping in
top-up
shopping trip)

%
28

Count
388

%
20

Count
219

14

193

20

216

15

205

19

213

24

327

27

295

19

265

15

161

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q7.1)


MULTICODE UP TO THREE. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER.
18. What are the main reasons why you dont always/never take plastic carrier bags from the
till when you go food shopping? Please select up to three reasons.
Base: 1,214 (those who claim that they dont always take plastic carrier bags from the till)
% Count
My own bags are stronger / less likely to break
37
454
Its wasteful to take new plastic carrier bags
31
375
Plastic carrier bags are bad for the environment
28
337
I get extra loyalty card points for using my own bags
25
305
To avoid plastic carrier bags ending up in landfill
24
296
I can pack items in my own bags more easily
23
277
My own bags are more comfortable to carry
20
238
To conserve natural resources that make plastic carrier bags
16
196
So I dont have to pay for new plastic carrier bags
15
179
To avoid creating more litter
9
114
I feel guilty taking plastic carrier bags
8
96
To prevent harm to animals from plastic carrier bag litter
7
82
My children ask me to take my own bags
1
10
Other, please specify
3
39

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

68

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q7.2)


MULTICODE UP TO THREE
19. Thinking about when you go food shopping and taking your own bags, why dont you
always take your own bags? Please select up to three reasons.
Base: 1,513 (all those who do some food shopping)
% Count
I sometimes forget to take my own bags
54
820
I dont always know when Im going to be shopping so wont always have my own bags with
23
349
me
Its more convenient to just take the plastic bags provided at the till
17
252
I take new plastic carrier bags to use for other things (e.g. as bin liners)
14
209
New plastic carrier bags are free
5
74
Its too much hassle to always have your own bags with you
4
68
Its more hygienic to get new bags
4
58
Plastic carrier bags can be easily recycled
3
45
The staff where I shop just pack my shopping into new bags
3
41
It looks cheap to re-use your own bags for shopping
2
27
I dont think plastic bags are a big problem / worth worrying about
1
21
I havent got anywhere to keep my own shopping bags
1
18
Other - please specify
4
57
Not applicable I always bring my own bags
19
289
Carrier bag behaviours

Please have a read of the following definitions you will need to have read them in order to
be able to answer the next set of questions.
Plastic carrier bags: Bags provided at the till of shops for free. They are made wholly
or mainly of plastic film and are not specifically made to be used lots of times.
Budget bag for life: Reusable shopping bags bought by shoppers from supermarkets.
They are also made of plastic but are thicker and stronger than plastic carrier bags. These
bags tend to cost between 5p and 12p.
Bags for life: Reusable shopping bags bought by shoppers from supermarkets. They
come in a range of colours and designs and are often made from fabric such as canvas,
woven synthetic fibres, or a thick plastic that is more durable than disposable plastic
carrier bags, so they can be used lots of times.
Your own (permanent) bags or containers: Bags or containers owned by shoppers
which are designed to be used lots of times and include items such as handbags, cloth
bags, rucksacks, foldable bags, crates, shopping trolleys etc.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

69

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q1.10)


SINGLE CODE EACH
ICM TO APPLY LOGIC RULE SO THAT RESPONDENT CANNOT CLICK NONSENSICAL
ANSWERS (I.E. TOTAL ANSWER OPTIONS NEED TO ADD UP TO ALL NOT MORE E.G. CAN
ONLY SELECT ALL AND NONE OR MORE THAN HALLF AND LESS THAN HALF, ETC.) ACROSS
ALL ANSWER OPTIONS.
20. Thinking specifically about the last time that you went food shopping, what proportion of
your purchases did you pack into the following types of bags or containers? Please select one

option

All

Base: 1,513 (all those who


do some food shopping)
New plastic carrier bag(s)
obtained at the till
Bag(s) for life brought from
home
Cloth / fabric bag(s) brought
from home
Plastic carrier bag(s)
brought from home
Nylon fold away shopping
bag(s) brought from home
Rucksack(s) / shopping
trolley(s) brought from
home
No container / bag items
taken loose
Shopping crate(s)/box(es)
(e.g. for home deliveries /
online shops)
Any other container(s)
brought from home (please
specify)
New bag(s) for life
purchased from the store
Any other new container(s)
purchased from the store
(please specify)

More
Half
Less than
None
than half
half
% Count % Count % Count % Count % Count

Cannot
remember
% Count

18

271

91

69

14

216

53

801

65

17

251

10

97

12

180

50

754

81

126

15
1
58

79

11

169

66

996

85

53

43

56

12

176

73

1,105

80

23

14

25

90

84

1,271

89

22

32

19

69

85

1,280

90

14

72

86

1,306

115

37

90

1,369

94

25

91

1,378

98

89

86

1,307

100

28

92

1,390

94

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

70

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q2.5)


MULTICODE FOR EACH
21. And thinking about non-food shopping, which of the following types of bags or containers do
you usually use to carry home the items you purchased from these shops? Please select all that
apply for each type of store.
Clothes
Beauty /
Electrical /
Entertainment
DIY and
shops
healthcare
electronics
shops (e.g.
hardware
shops
shops
selling books,
shops
DVDs, toys,
games etc.)
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
% Count % Count % Count
%
Count % Count
New carrier bag(s) obtained at
76
1,16
52
801
55
842
54
829
51
785
the till
8
Carrier bag(s) brought from
5
71
9
145
5
72
5
78
5
76
home
Bag(s) for life brought from
5
84
8
122
7
104
7
114
6
90
home
New bag(s) for life purchased
2
30
1
18
2
31
2
35
1
20
from the store
Cloth / fabric bag(s) brought
7
110
12
180
7
105
10
151
9
131
from home
Nylon fold away shopping
3
40
5
70
3
44
4
67
3
52
bag(s) brought from home
Rucksack(s) / shopping
3
50
5
74
5
75
6
95
4
65
trolley(s) brought from home
Shopping crate(s)/box(es)
1
11
1
18
2
25
2
31
1
16
(e.g. for home deliveries /
online shops)
Any other new container(s)
1
21
1
10
1
19
1
23
1
12
purchased from the store
(please specify)
Any other container(s) brought
1
17
2
31
2
29
1
15
1
18
from home (please specify)
No container / bag items
3
47
5
82
16
241
7
104
16
248
taken loose
I dont shop at this type of
6
90
14
211
12
192
14
223
13
196
store
FOLLOWING QUESTION IS SAME AS EXODUS SURVEY (Q5.1 & Q4.1)
SINGLE CODE. ONLY ASK IF CODE 1-5 OR 7 AT Q22.
22. How many bags for life do you own / have in your house? Please select one option
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
5 or more
39
4
10
3
14
2
12
1
5
None
13
Dont know
6

Count
595
153
220
192
84
200
94

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

71

SINGLE CODE
*23. Thinking specifically about the bags for life that you own / have in your house, how often
do you use them for food shopping? Please select one option
Base: 1,338 (respondents who have bag(s) for life)
%
Count
Never
4
54
Rarely
16
216
Less than half the times I go food shopping
12
167
About half the times I go food shopping
12
160
Most of the times I go food shopping
32
431
Every time I go food shopping
23
310
FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q4.9)
MULTICODE. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER
24. Please select from the list below any way that you have disposed of a bag for life in the
last 12 months Please select all that apply
Base: 1,338 (respondents who have bag(s) for life)
%
Count
I havent disposed of a bag for life in the last 12 months
51
687
I handed it back and got a replacement free of charge in store
20
270
I used it as a bin liner
12
161
I put it in the recycling at home
10
131
I recycled it somewhere else e.g. recycling bin at supermarket
7
98
I put it in the general rubbish/ black bag waste at home
7
97
Other, please specify
1
18
FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q4.10)
SINGLE CODE
25. Thinking about the last bag for life you disposed of, approximately how many times had it
been used (for any purpose) before being disposed of? Please select one option
Base: 1,338 (respondents who have bag(s) for life)
%
Count
Once (when it was bought)
2
31
2 to 3 times
5
69
4 to 5 times
4
58
6 to 10 times
5
72
11 to 15 times
4
60
More than 15 times
32
425
Not sure
13
176
N/A I have never disposed of a bag for life
33
446
SINGLE CODE
26. Which of the following statements would you agree with most regarding plastic carrier
bag litter? Please select one option
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
Count
It has increased a great deal in the last few years
14
221
It has increased a fair amount in the last few years
19
291
It has stayed about the same in the last few years
23
347
It has decreased a little in the last few years
20
308
It has decreased a lot in the last few years
6
89
I dont know
18
282

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

72

MULTICODE. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER.


27. Please select all the statements that you feel apply to each of the bags shown in the
images below.

Base: 1,538
(all respondents)
A normal shopping bag
Not for people like me
Environmentally friendly
Harmful to the environment
Usually biodegradable
Usually recyclable
Reusable
Fashionable

Image 1
%

Count

29
8
42
13
19
41
84
11

445
123
654
200
297
633
1,286
173

Image 2
%
Count
36
22
4
72
15
26
39
2

557
340
62
1,111
223
393
604
23

Image 3
%

Count

36
15
63
2
29
28
76
28

551
232
966
38
442
434
1,164
431

Image 4
%
Count
38
16
51
4
15
22
75
29

586
249
787
56
237
337
1,155
452

Biodegradable bags
OPEN
28. What is a biodegradable bag? Please type your understanding of what this in the box below.

MULTICODE. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER.


29. Researchers are working on ways to make plastic carrier bags that are biodegradable.
If you had a plastic carrier bag that was labelled biodegradable how would you dispose of
it? Please select all that apply
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
Count
I would use it as a bin liner
35
533
I would put it in the recycling at home
31
472
I would use it as a liner for my food waste bin / kitchen caddy
30
464
I would recycle it somewhere else e.g. recycling bin at supermarket
22
334
I would put it in my compost bin / heap at home
16
245
I would put it in the general rubbish/ black bag waste at home
15
223
I would put it in my food waste / garden waste bin which gets collected
15
235
I wouldnt dispose of it
5
77
Other, please specify
1
14
Dont know
9
133

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

73

SINGLE CODE EACH OPTION. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER.


30. As already mentioned, researchers are working on ways to make plastic carrier bags that
are biodegradable. Keeping this in mind to what extent do you agree/disagree with each of
the following statements on these biodegradable bags? Please select one option per statement
Strongly
Disagree
Neither
Agree
Strongly
disagree
agree nor
agree
disagree
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
% Count % Count % Count % Count % Count
They wouldnt be as strong as
6
96
22
345
49
760
18
284
3
52
normal plastic carrier bags
If they were dropped on the street
28
425
32
496
28
429
10
156
2
32
it wouldnt matter as they would
break down naturally
They wouldnt be as hygienic as
21
330
34
522
37
566
6
93
2
27
normal plastic carrier bags
I doubt that they would really
6
100
26
398
48
746
16
244
3
50
break down properly
It would be okay to put them in
4
62
13
206
37
565
36
556
10
149
your home compost heap/bin or
your food waste collection
It wouldnt be as bad to put them
4
54
11
164
35
531
42
643
9
146
in the general rubbish/ black bag
waste as it would normal plastic
carrier bags
They would break down more
1
22
2
36
18
270
49
750
30
460
easily in landfill than normal plastic
carrier bags
OPEN
31. How long would you expect it to take for a carrier bag labelled as biodegradable to break
down? Enter the length of time in the box below.

SINGLE CODE
32. Which of the following do you think is the best approach for indicating that a carrier bag is
biodegradable? Please select one option
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
% Count
A logo / label printed on the bag
57
880
A particular colour of bag
19
288
Written information on the bag
17
256
An accreditation from a recognised/trusted agency
7
108
Other, please specify
0
5

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

74

SINGLE CODE EACH


33. For each of the following labels, please tell us how often you refer to them on the packaging
of products you buy. By refer, we mean you use the label (e.g. to inform you about what you do
with an item), rather than it being something you have just seen or noticed. Please select one

option

Base: 1,538 (all respondents)

Very often

Fairly often

Occasionally

Seen but
dont refer to
it
Count % Count
278
11
169

%
6

Count
97

%
9

Count
144

%
18

37

75

10

148

25

59

125

Have not
seen
%
55

Count
851

101

77

1,17
7

82

81

1,24
8

Label 1

Label 2

Label 3
Views on charging
SINGLE CODE EACH
* (option 4) 34. To what extent are you aware of the following facts? Please select one option per

fact

Very aware

Base: 1,538 (all respondents)


Bags for life can be replaced free of charge with new bags
for life at any supermarket
Plastic carrier bags can be recycled at most supermarkets
In Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland shops
must charge customers for plastic carrier bags
*In England, from October 2015 it will be compulsory for
supermarkets and other large shops to charge customers for
plastic carrier bags

Slightly
aware
% Count
26
396

Not at all
aware
% Count
30
469

%
44

Count
673

41
47

623
715

34
31

524
470

25
23

391
353

30

455

33

512

37

571

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

75

FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q6.3)


MULTICODE UP TO THREE. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER.
35. Some stores in the United Kingdom now charge for plastic carrier bags. Please select the
statements that match your views on this charge. Please choose up to three statements.
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
Count
It encourages people to use their own bags and Bags for Life more
57
871
It encourages people to use fewer single use plastic carrier bags
37
563
It will be good for the environment
34
516
Its a good idea generally
28
425
It will reduce litter
21
316
Its a way for stores to make more money
20
303
It helps people throw away less plastic
20
302
It means people are less likely to ad hoc shop/shop on the spur of the moment
9
136
It makes no difference
9
134
It means people plan their shopping trips better
8
117
Its a bad idea generally
7
102
It means people buy fewer things
6
97
Other, please specify
1
14
FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q6.4)
MULTICODE UP TO THREE. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER.
36. If a national charging policy for plastic carrier bags of 5p per bag (with proceeds going to
good causes) was introduced across all stores, how do you think this would impact on your
shopping habits? Please choose up to three statements.
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
Count
I would use Bags for Life more often
40
620
It would make no difference I would continue doing what I do
39
593
I would use my own bags (such as a rucksack, foldaway bags or trolleys) more often
35
545
I would use previously used plastic carrier bags more
24
370
I would plan my shopping more (e.g. making more regular and planned shopping trips
11
168
and making fewer impulse purchases)
I would pack fewer items, using fewer bags
7
106
I would make fewer shopping trips
6
91
Some other impacts (please specify)
2
29
FOLLOWING QUESTION DRAWS FROM EXODUS SURVEY (Q6.5)
MULTICODE. RANDOMISE CODE ORDER
37. What is the main reason you say a charge would make no difference to your shopping
habits? Please select all that apply
Base: 593 (those claiming that 5p carrier bag charge would make no difference)
%
Count
I already use alternatives to plastic carrier bags
62
366
I dont use many plastic carrier bags
33
196
Im used to taking plastic carrier bags
15
88
A 5p charge is too small to change my habits
8
47
Its too much hassle to use alternatives
6
35
Plastic carrier bags are more convenient
5
30
Everyone uses plastic carrier bags its the done thing
4
22
The money goes to good causes so I would continue buying plastic carrier bags
4
21
No alternative offered by staff in store
3
16
Plastic carrier bags are more hygienic
2
9
Other, please specify
3
20

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

76

SINGLE CODE
*38. To what extent are you in favour or against a national charge of 5p for plastic carrier
bags across England? Please select one option
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
%
Count
Strongly in favour
32
494
Slightly in favour
25
389
Not sure
16
252
Slightly against
10
159
Strongly against
12
190
I do not have an opinion
4
54
MULTICODE UP TO AND RANK SELECTED THREE. RANDOMISE CODER ORDER
39. What are your main reasons for supporting a charge on plastic carrier bags? Please select up
to three options and then rank your answers in order of importance. RANDOMISE LIST ORDER
1st
2nd
3rd
Not chosen
Base: 882 (respondents strongly or slightly in favour % Count % Count % Count % Count

of 5p carrier bag charge)

Plastic carrier bags are bad for the environment


To avoid plastic carrier bags ending up in landfill
To prevent harm to animals from plastic carrier bag
litter
To avoid creating more litter
Its wasteful to take new plastic carrier bags
Some people are taking too many free plastic carrier
bags and abusing the system
To conserve natural resources that make plastic
carrier bags
Manufacturing plastic bags creates greenhouse
gasses that contribute to climate change
Good causes would get a boost from the money
raised
Local good causes would benefit from the money
raised
Other, please specify

31
18
9

276
159
83

20
19
12

172
169
102

13
17
11

115
147
100

36
46
68

319
407
598

9
8
6

79
72
54

11
8
5

101
68
48

12
9
6

101
77
56

68
75
82

600
664
724

51

64

82

78

685

45

67

12

108

75

662

36

44

49

85

753

26

45

47

87

764

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

77

MULTICODE UP TO AND RANK SELECTED THREE. RANDOMISE CODER ORDER


40. What are your main reasons for not supporting a charge on plastic carrier bags? Please
select up to three options and then rank your answers in order of importance.
1st
2nd
3rd
Not chosen
Base: 349 (respondents strongly or slightly against % Count % Count % Count % Count

5p carrier bag charge)

Its just a way for supermarkets to make more


money
Its just another way for Government to make money
I dont believe the money will end up with good
causes
I wont be able to use plastic carrier bags as free bin
liners any more
Its a hassle to bring my own bags
The price of the bag is already covered by the price
of your shopping
I couldnt afford to pay the charge
I would worry that others would not be able to
afford the charge
Because 5p is still too cheap for a charge to work
Getting the bag is part of the shopping experience
Plastic bags are pretty harmless to the environment
It will be impossible to monitor it just wont work
Other, please specify

35

123

16

55

24

42

148

25
10

89
33

21
17

73
61

6
18

21
64

48
55

167
192

22

27

11

38

75

262

6
5

20
19

9
13

32
46

7
23

24
80

78
58

273
204

5
2

17
7

5
3

19
12

6
3

21
12

84
91

292
318

2
1
0
0
2

6
4
1
0
8

1
1
1
2
1

5
2
3
6
2

1
6
2
5
2

5
21
6
16
6

95
92
97
94
95

333
322
340
327
333

RANDOMISE ORDER. HAVE COLUMNS APPEAR IN PAIRS SO THAT RESPONDENT CAN


CHOOSE ONE WORD IN EACH PAIR AND THEN GREY OUT THE ALREADY ANSWERED PAIR.
41a. When a 5p charge for plastic carrier bags comes into effect in England, there will be
some types of bag and some types of shop where the charge might not apply (i.e. they will be
exempt from the charge). Some of the exemptions being considered are listed below. Please

select the word that best applies to you for each exemption below.
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
Smaller and medium retailers
Very small retailers e.g. corner shops
Plastic bags for hot food or hot drinks taken away
from the shop where they are sold
Light weight plastic bags e.g. small transparent bags
used for loose fruit and vegetables
Bags labelled as biodegradable
Paper bags

Confusing
%
59
43
40

Confusing
Count
914
667
620

Clear
%
41
57
60

Clear
Count
624
871
918

32

486

68

1,052

23
18

359
274

77
82

1,179
1,264

41b. When a 5p charge for plastic carrier bags comes into effect in England, there will be
some types of bag and some types of shop where the charge might not apply (i.e. they will be
exempt from the charge). Some of the exemptions being considered are listed below. Please

select the word that best applies to you for each exemption below.
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
Smaller and medium retailers
Very small retailers e.g. corner shops
Plastic bags for hot food or hot drinks taken away
from the shop where they are sold
Light weight plastic bags e.g. small transparent bags
used for loose fruit and vegetables
Bags labelled as biodegradable
Paper bags

Surprising
%

Surprising
Count

Expected
%

Expected
Count

61
44
43

937
682
659

39
56
57

601
856
879

32

495

68

1,043

24
21

374
325

76
79

1,164
1,213

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

78

41c. When a 5p charge for plastic carrier bags comes into effect in England, there will be
some types of bag and some types of shop where the charge might not apply (i.e. they will be
exempt from the charge). Some of the exemptions being considered are listed below. Please

select the word that best applies to you for each exemption below.
Base: 1,538 (all respondents)
Smaller and medium retailers
Very small retailers e.g. corner shops
Plastic bags for hot food or hot drinks taken away from
the shop where they are sold
Light weight plastic bags e.g. small transparent bags
used for loose fruit and vegetables
Paper bags
Bags labelled as biodegradable

Unfair
%
49
37
36

Unfair
Count
761
572
554

Fair
%
51
63
64

Fair
Count
777
966
984

28

432

72

1,106

20
19

308
288

80
81

1,230
1,250

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

79

Annex 3: Under-claim and over-claim of


types of bags used
When responding to questionnaires, respondents tend to be subject to various kinds of bias.
It was anticipated that the most likely type of bias for this topic would be for respondents to
over-state altruistic and socially beneficial attributes or behaviours.78 In practice this means
that respondents are more likely to deny certain attitudes and behaviours which are
perceived to be socially undesirable, and state those that are not. To a lesser extent
respondents may demonstrate acquiescence bias in their answers, which is essentially the
tendency to be positive and provide the answers perceived to be what the interviewer, or in
this case, survey provider would like to hear.
For this reason of response bias, the online questionnaire took the possibility of overclaiming into account in its design. This was done by assessing the inconsistency of
responses across several different questions asking about a single behaviour. Furthermore,
comparisons could be made between claimed behaviours from this research and claimed and
observed behaviours from the Exodus research. However, these comparisons need to be
treated with caution as the research was carried out in a different time period and used
different modes79 (online survey versus telephone interviews and observational research in
Scotland and Wales) which can influence the responses given.80
In addition questions were worded differently in the Exodus research compared to this
research.
The research team was asked to outline the degree of under-claim and/or over-claim present
within the survey with a view to what extend claimed behaviours can be considered a true
pre-charge baseline for England. This section presents a detailed account of this while
section 1.4 in the report provides a summary. The main aspects to bear in mind are:
Social desirability bias is a potential issue which causes under- and over-claim of certain
types of bag use, as found in the Exodus work; and
Steps to understand and, to a certain extent, minimise the potential bias have been
undertaken including the selection of an online methodology, question wording and the
below assessment.
At the time of the Exodus telephone interviews and observation data collection (observations
were carried out near the till in supermarkets and independent food stores), Wales had
already brought in carrier bag charging, whereas Scotland had not. It would, therefore, be
expected that the data for England be more similar to the Scottish data.
Under-claim of use of new plastic carrier bags
This section investigates the hypothesis that for the use of new single use carrier bags
(SUCBs) there is a marked tendency towards under-claim; more new SUCBs are used in
practice than people claim. It is felt to be likely that people under-claim doing things that are
considered to be less socially desirable.
78

Social desirability bias tends to be an issue for most modes of survey research but is normally more present in face-to-face
and telephone surveys as the research context is more social and specific subject areas that have a social etiquette or
implication plastic carrier bag use is one of these subject areas.
79
The Exodus work used computer aided telephone interviewing (CATI) with a sample of 984 for Wales and 1,014 for Scotland.
This survey for England was conducted with computer assisted web interviewing (CAWI) with a sample of 1,538. All samples
have been weighted to the relevant nation and are comparable in this regard.
80
For further discussion on mode effects on data comparison see Duffy et al (2005). Comparing data from online and face-toface surveys, International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 47, Issue 6: 615-639.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

80

For single use carrier bags (SUCBs), data collected for Scotland and Wales via the Exodus
survey (both by telephone interview and observational) has been compared with our own
online questionnaire data for England. This is shown in Figure A below.
Figure A Assessment of under-claim of new plastic carrier bags81*

The first point to note is that the online questionnaire data for England most closely
resembles that of Scotlands telephone interview data, which is likely to be related to the
absence of a charge in these nations at the time of the research.
Comparing observed and reported behaviour for both Scotland and Wales, shows a tendency
to under-claim the use of SUCBs. In both Scotland and Wales the observational data
indicates greater use of new SUCBs than is claimed in the telephone interviews. However, for
Scotland the difference between observed and claimed behaviour is considerably more
marked.
For Scotland, on the last shopping trip, only 18% claimed to use new SUCBs for all of their
shopping, while observational data found that the re-use of new SUCB is closer to 47%.82
The hypothesis that there is under-claim for SUCB use is strongly supported by this data.

81

For the detail of the questions in the England survey see Annex 2, for the detail of the Exodus research for Wales and
Scotland see Exodus Market Research for Welsh Government and Zero Waste Scotland (2013). Consumer behavioural study on
the use and re-use of carrier bags 2012. Top-up shopping was described as shopping for a small number of items to
supplement food at home.
http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Carrier%20bag%20behavioural%20report_SCOTLAND_FINAL%20V5%20
18%207%2013%20v3.pdf
*
Asterisk * on the stacked bars denotes percentage split of respondents who selected different frequencies or proportions as
noted in the descriptions underneath the bars.
82
The consumers who were interviewed on the telephone were not the same people observed in store. However, as the
telephone interviews achieved a nationally representative sample and every effort was made to ensure the observational
research covered a range of store types, a comparison between the two data sets is considered valid.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

81

In Wales, by contrast, only 7% claimed to have used new SUCBs for all of their last shop
compared to 12% observed. It is clear that under-claim of SUCB use was far less evident in
Wales.
For England, we do not currently have access to observational data. It is likely that the
figures for over-claim in England will match Scotland more closely than Wales, because the
carrier bag charge was in force in Wales but not in Scotland when the data was gathered.
There was a relatively high claim in England of frequent use of new SUCBs when food
shopping, with 28% responding always, increasing to 42% for always and usually. The
most direct comparison for this data is for claimed behaviour on the latest trip, where the
figure for England is 18% claiming they, in their last shop, put all their purchases in new
SUCBs, the same as for Scotland.
In summary, under-claim for SUCBs use in Wales was modest with a 5% point difference

between observed and claimed. In Scotland, according to the same measure, the range
was of 29% point difference between observed and claimed representing a considerable
level of under-claim.
An expected under-claim in England is likely to most closely match that of Scotland due to
the absence of a charge and with the matching baseline claims of 18% for sole use of
SUCB for the latest shop providing further support for this.
Over-claim of use of bags for life or other own bags
This section investigates the hypothesis that there is tendency towards over-claim for the
use of bags for life (BfL), and that fewer BfL are used in practice than is claimed. In line with
SUCB behaviours, it is felt to be likely that people over-claim behaviour considered being
more socially desirable.
As with SUCB investigations, it is relevant that at the time of the Exodus telephone
interviews and observation data collection, Wales had already brought in carrier bag
charging, whereas Scotland had not. Again, we would therefore expect the data for England
to be more similar to the Scottish data. Data for Scotland and Wales via the Exodus survey
have been presented with the 2014 online questionnaire data for England and results
presented individually for each nation.
In Wales, as Figure B shows, 79% of respondents claimed to use a re-used a BfL on their
last trip. Further to this, 75% of respondents claimed to use re-used BfLs for all of their
shopping on the last trip. Observational data, however, indicated that this figure was 51%.
On the other hand, 2% claimed to buy a new BFL on their last shopping trip and 2% claimed
to use new BfLs for all of their shopping on the last trip, but observations indicated that 11%
bought a BFL from the till. Overall, observational data also suggested that 43% of all bags
used are re-used BFLs. Ninety-three percent of respondents claimed to own one or more
BFLs.
These results suggest that respondents in Wales overstated their use of re-used BFL, as well
as understating their purchase of new ones.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

82

Figure B Claimed and observed bag for life (BFL) use and purchase for food shopping in
Wales (Telephone interview (CATI), (2012, Base: 1,012) and observational data (OBS)
(December 2012-January 2013, n=4,884) via Exodus research)*

In Scotland 65% claimed to use a re-used a BfL on their last trip and 58% claimed to use reused BfLs for all of their shopping on their last trip, compared with 28% from the
observational research (Figure C). This indicates a higher level of over-claim than for Wales,
consistent with the SUCB charge being in place in Wales but not Scotland at the time of the
studies.
Three percent claimed to use a new BfL on their last shopping trip while 2% claimed to use
new BfLs for all of their purchases made on their last shopping trip. Observations indicated
that 3% had bought a new BfL on their last shopping trip. Overall, the observational
research recorded that 16% of all bags used in Scotland were re-used BFLs. The majority of
respondents (86%) claimed to own at least one BFL.
The results indicate considerable over-claim in Scotland for use of re-used BfLs, to a far
greater extent than Wales. Claimed levels for new BfL purchase at the till were consistent
with observed levels.

Asterisk * on the stacked bars denotes percentage split of respondents who selected different frequencies or proportions as
noted in the descriptions underneath the bars.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

83

Figure C Claimed and observed bag for life (BFL) use and purchase for food shopping in
Scotland (Telephone interview (CATI), (2012, n=1,005) and observational data (OBS)
(December 2012-January 2013, n=4,645) via Exodus research)*

In England, 23% claimed to use BfL every time, with an additional 32% claiming to use
them most of the time, yielding a total of 55% (Figure D). This can be compared with 33%
who claimed to use re-used BFL on their last food shopping trip for half or more of their
items; note that for this question (Q20) 50% claimed to use no BFL from home. These
claimed levels are lower than claimed behaviour for both Wales and Scotland. Since none of
the respondents in England claimed to purchase new BfL on the last shopping trip for half or
more of the shopping (compared to 2% for Wales and Scotland),these figures do not appear
on the chart.
Respondents were asked how many BfLs they own: 80% claimed to own one or more.
Although it is not possible to determine the level of over-claim for England without
observational data, respondents claimed to use fewer re-used BfL than in both Wales and
Scotland, which could suggest a lower level of over-claim of BfL use is present in England
than in Wales or Scotland.

Asterisk * on the stacked bars denotes percentage split of respondents who selected different frequencies or proportions as
noted in the descriptions underneath the bars.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

84

Figure D Claimed bag for life (BFL) use and ownership in England (Online questionnaire
(CAWI), 2014. Q19 & Q20, Base: 1,513 (all those who claimed to do some shopping in their
household); Q22, Base: 1,538; Q23, base: 1,338 (all respondents who claim to have bag(s)
for life))

It is worth also noting that in the focus groups carried out as part of this research study in
England, as the discussion progressed with probing by the facilitator and exercises, it
became clear that participants had initially over-claimed their use of their own bags/bags for
life for food shopping.
The main conclusions to be drawn from the results concerning over/under-claim are that:
Over-claim for use of re-used BFLs was recorded at 28% points in Wales and 37% points
in Scotland. Claimed use of re-used BfLs was lower in England than both Wales and
Scotland.
As with SUCB use, it is assumed that levels of over-claim in England would most closely
resemble those in Scotland (rather than Wales) representing a less marked, pre-carrier
bag charge scenario. The level of over-claim, however, is likely to be lower in England
than in Scotland due to claimed use of re-used bags for life being lower in England than in
Scotland (and in Wales). To some extent the patterns revealed are supported by the
findings for claimed ownership of bags for life which were 93%, 86% and 80% for Wales,
Scotland and England respectively.83

83

It is nonetheless worth remembering the difference in mode - the England survey was conducted online and the Exodus
research in Scotland and Wales was conducted via telephone. The mode effect could explain the lower level of over-claim given
social desirability bias may have less of an impact on responses gathered via online surveys compared to those gathered via
telephone interviews.

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

85

Annex 4: Recruitment specification for


discussion groups
These were the instructions provided to the recruitment agency Criteria who then developed
screener questionnaires to recruit relevant participants.
Screeners
All participants to be responsible for at least some of their household food shopping.
No participants who work in government central or local, advertising, market research,
marketing, public Relations/media or journalism.
No participants who have attended a discussion group within the last year.
No participants who have ever attended a discussion group about carrier bag re-use.
Group split
Group split
Group no.
1

Date

Time

Wed 19th Feb


th

Location (precise location


TBC)

SEG

6pm to 7.30pm

South West

C1C2

Wed 19 Feb

8pm to 9.30pm

South West

AB

Thu 20th Feb

6pm to 7.30pm

London

C1C2

Thu 20th Feb

8pm to 9.30pm

London

DE

th

6pm to 7.30pm

Midlands

C1C2

th

Tue 25 Feb

Tue 25 Feb

8pm to 9.30pm

Midlands

DE

Wed 26th Feb

6pm to 7.30pm

North

C1C2

8pm to 9.30pm

North

AB

th

Wed 26 Feb

At least one location to have kerbside collection of carrier bags local authorities that are an
option are:
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
Blackburn with Darwen Borough
Council
Leicester City Council
Melton Borough Council
Charnwood Borough Council
South Holland District Council
Stafford Borough Council
Cannock Chase District Council
South Cambridgeshire District Council
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
Uttlesford District Council
Epping Forest District Council
Colchester Borough Council
Braintree District Council
Basildon District Council
Three Rivers District Council

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

86

East Hertfordshire District Council


Suffolk Coastal District Council
Waltham Forest London Borough
Council
Enfield London Borough Council
Lewisham London Borough Council
Greenwich London Borough Council
Ealing London Borough Council
Isle of Wight Council
Dartford Borough Council
West Oxfordshire District Council
South Oxfordshire District Council
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council
Exeter City Council
Swindon Borough Council
Durham County Council
Cheshire East Council
Central Bedfordshire Council
Bedford Council
Two groups to take place in rural locations.
Two groups to take place in locations with food waste collections.

Other quotas
Minimum quotas per group
Quota categories

Quotas per group

Age

18-34 min 3
35-54 min 3
55+ - min 3

Gender

Female - min 4
Male min 4

Young males

Min one young male (18-34) per group


Please prioritise age 18-24 for young males where possible
Please log actual specific age rather than age bands.

Parents

Min 2 parents (of children under 16) per group

Levels of commitment to recycling

Super-committed min 3
Committed min 3
Non-committed 3

Stated behaviours/attitudes towards re-use of


carrier bags

Always/usually re-use carrier bags or use permanent bag


e.g. rucksack min 3
Sometimes re-use min 2
Rarely re-use min 2
Never re-use min 2

Responsibility for food shopping

No respondent not being at all responsible


Solely/more than half/about half responsible - min 5

Shopping methods (shopping online)

No respondent always shopping online/never in-store


Most of the time max 2

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

87

Questions to measure level of commitment to recycling


When thinking about recycling of household waste, which of these statements best describes
how important recycling is to you personally? [single response]
Very important
Fairly important
Not very important
Not at all important
Dont know
Which of these statements best describes your attitude to recycling? [single response]
I recycle even if it requires additional effort
I recycle if it does not require additional effort
I do not recycle
Dont know
Which of these statements best describes how much you recycle? [single response]
I recycle everything that can be recycled
I recycle a lot but not everything that can be recycled
I recycle sometimes
I do not recycle
Dont know
Super committed recyclers:
Answer a) to all three questions
Committed recyclers:
Answer a) or b) to Q1
Answer a) to Q2
Answer a) or b) to Q3
(But not a) to all three)
Non committed recyclers:
Any other respondents
But screen out those who say they do not recycle - i.e. c) at Q2 and d) at Q3
Question to measure attitudes towards carrier bag re-use
Thinking about when you go food shopping, which of the following statements best apply to
you? [single response]
I always take my own bags with me
I usually (but not always) take my own bags with me
I sometimes take my own bags with me
I rarely take my own bags with me
I never take my own bags with me
Min
Min
Min
Min

3
2
2
2

giving
giving
giving
giving

answer
answer
answer
answer

(a) or (b)
(c)
(d)
(e)

Recruiter to explain to potential participant that if they dont understand the question as
above option (a) means I never take bags at the checkout (b) I occasionally take bags from
the checkout (c) I sometimes take bags from the checkout (d) I mostly take bags from the
checkout (e) I always take bags from the checkout

Carrier bags usage and attitudes: Consumer research in England

88

Question to measure responsibility for food shopping


Thinking about your household's food and grocery shopping, are you personally responsible
for selecting half or more of the items to be bought from supermarkets and food shops?
[single response]
Yes, solely responsible
Responsible for more than half (but not all)
About half
Less than half
None someone else does it
No respondent answering (e) and min 5 giving answer (a), (b) or (c) in each group.
Question about shopping methods (shopping online)
How often do you do your main food shop online to be delivered to your home? [single
response]
Always- I never do a big food shop in-store
Most of the time
Sometimes
Rarely
Never
No respondent answering (a) and max 2 giving answer (b) in each group
Questions to ask in the screener questionnaire but not for quotas PLEASE LOG ALL
INFORMATION
How many cars are there in your household? [single response]

None
1
2
3+

Which of the following statements best describes how much your household composts at
home? [single response]
We compost everything that can be home composted
We compost a lot but not everything that can be home composted
We compost only a small part of what can be composted
We do not make compost at home
How often do you go shopping for non-food items (e.g. clothes, household, electrical)?
[single response]
Daily
2-3 times per week
Weekly
2-3 times per month
Monthly
Every couple of months
Less often
Never

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Which of the following supermarkets do you shop at? [multiple response]


Aldi
ASDA
Lidl
Marks and Spencer
Morrisons
Sainsburys
Tesco
Waitrose
Other please specify
Ideally we would like a spread across the above questions on which supermarkets
participants shop at to ensure a broad representation across the groups.
Pre-tasking
Ahead of the discussion group please ask all participants to bring with them all of the bags
they used when they last went food shopping. If this is not possible please encourage
recruited participants to think about what bags they used and what they did with those bags.

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Annex 5: Sampling framework


Survey sample quotas
Quota
categories
Age

Gender

Region

Demographic
groups

Proportion in
population

Proposed quota
levels
Based on 1,500

Achieved quota
levels
Based on 1,538

18-24

12%

180

179

25-34

16%

240

241

35-44

19%

285

283

45-54

17%

255

264

55-64

15%

225

227

65+

21%

315

344

Male

49%

735

763

Female

51%

765

775

North East

5%

75

76

North West

14%

210

208

Yorkshire and the


Humber

10%

150

158

East Midlands

9%

135

144

West Midlands

11%

165

171

East of England

10%

150

160

London

15%

225

213

South East

16%

240

251

South West

10%

150

157

AB

28%

420

435

C1

30%

450

464

C2

22%

330

324

DE

20%

300

315

SEG

Interlocking age and gender quotas


Demographic groups

Proposed quota levels


Based on 1,500

Achieved quota levels


Based on 1,538

Men, 18-24

88

87

Men, 25-34

118

117

Men, 35-44

140

140

Men, 45-54

125

133

Men, 55-64

110

112

Men, 65+

154

174

Women, 18-24

92

92

Women, 25-34

122

124

Women, 35-44

145

143

Women, 45-54

130

131

Women, 55-64

115

115

Women, 65+

161

170

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Annex 6: Peer review statement


Comment on research methodology
The research gathered both qualitative and quantitative data, from discussion groups and an
online survey in England, in an iterative approach that worked well. Some elements of the
design were based on previous research on carrier bag use conducted in Wales and Scotland
by Exodus Market Research, a study that also included observational work.
Although there were differences in methodologies and the policy context, it was useful to be
able to compare and contrast (and to a certain extent to validate) the results of this
research, where appropriate, with the Exodus research. It would have been of value to have
included observational work in this research, as it was clear from the Exodus research that
there were large differences in reported and observed behaviour. In an attempt to redress
this gap, in addition to referencing findings from the Exodus research alongside reported
behaviour by survey respondents, check questions were included in the questionnaire to
identify any inconsistencies in response, thereby further highlighting any over/underclaiming.
There are a number of drawbacks to self-completed online surveys that are not inherent in
interview-led (face to face or telephone) surveys. Needing to limit the number of questions is
one of these, which meant that the survey heavily focussed on carrier bag usage for food
shopping, even though the discussion groups (and the Exodus research) identified very
different behavioural and attitudinal differences in non-food shopping. It was also not
possible to include questions on current recycling practice, to see if this affected behaviours
and attitudes, though this was used as a filter for discussion group recruitment. The need to
avoid jargon and difficult terminology in the absence of an interviewer to add explanation, is
something which was managed by conducting the discussion groups first, which informed
the wording used in the survey, thereby giving credibility to the approach and confidence
that the wording of the questionnaire was appropriate and would be understood by
respondents. The key advantage of an online approach though, is the relatively low cost
compared to other methods, making repeat waves of research more feasible, which may be
required in this subject area to monitor the impact of the carrier bag charge on usage and
attitudes. Quotas were used to ensure the results were representative of the English adult
population and this was achieved.
Comment on research findings
The findings presented are accurately based on the findings of the research. They are factual
rather than interpretive and provide answers to each of the research questions in a clear and
consistent manner.
More extensive information is provided in the appendices, particularly on under/overclaiming, that will be essential if this work is to be repeated.
Dr Elaine Kerrell
Elaine Kerrell Environmental Consultancy

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