Over five hundred million plastic charity bags go to waste every year, says a leading waste and recycling company which is leading calls to restrict the practice.
Figures show that the vast majority of plastic sacks which charities hope householders will fill with doorstep donations are not used at all, with many simply going straight into the bin.
National waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk calls on charities to rethink their collection strategies, and turn to less wasteful alternatives.
"The problem with these bags is their convenience," says BusinessWaste.co.uk ‘s Recycling Director Mark Hall, "As a call to action they’re reasonably effective for the charities involved, but in terms of waste, they’re horrendous."
"If charities and their agents are unable to find a better solution, we call on government to consider a ban."
According to statistics collated by one charity bags website, 60% of the UK’s households receive an average of 25 charity bags per year, resulting in:
525,000,000 bags delivered across Britain annually
2,625 tonnes of plastic bags used, only 25% of which are bio-degradable
Only 3% of bags are filled and left out on collection day
This means that 509 million bags – over 2,500 tonnes – are not used for their intended purpose.
"That figure is just for a single year," said Mark, "There must be billions of these bags either filling up kitchen cupboards or going straight into landfill. Something has to be done to stop this tide of waste."
BusinessWaste.co.uk suggests that charities consider the following alternatives:
Use more bio-degradable bags, or consider US-style paper sacks
Deliver leaflets or sticky labels to encourage households to use their own bags and boxes
Encourage alternative means of making a donation
"The general public finds the endless tide of unwanted plastic bags annoying," said Mr Hall, "People fell they’re being guilt-tripped into donating, especially when they receive several bags from competing charities in quick succession."
People can do their bit to help reduce waste by:
Put up a sign asking charities not to leave bags
Leave empty bags on your doorstep to be reused
Make donations direct to charity shops or recycling bins
BusinessWaste.co.uk agree that regulating the use of plastic charity bags is a thorny subject that could meet significant opposition.
"In their attempts at doing good, charities are also inadvertently doing the environment no favours. Something’s got to be done."