The Biggest & Best Portal to the Professional Property, Workplace and Built Environment Community

Thursday, 15 November

Black Market Plastic Bags On Sale Outside Supermarkets

young entrepreneurs are flogging re-use shopping bags for less than the supermarkets

Aspiring entrepreneurs are taking to selling plastic carrier bags outside of supermarkets and convenience stores, undercutting the 5p price in-store and reaping the rewards of a forgetful nation of shoppers.

Anecdotal evidence gathered by UK waste management agency,, has shown that while many of us have adjusted to the 5p levy on plastic carrier bags introduced by the Government in 2015, hordes of absent minded shoppers are still being caught short.

A number of business-minded individuals, however, have spotted a niche market – and are selling their own spare carrier bags outside supermarkets at below the going rate, as Matthew, 34, from Bradford, experienced: “There’s a gang of kids outside my local shop selling carrier bags for 3p each,” he laughed. “At first I thought it was a joke but they were even doing deals – 5p for two bags!”’s own research concluded that ‘multi-buy’ deals from the savvy sellers were common, with one shopper reporting ten carrier bags for just twenty pence – much cheaper than the supermarket’s own prices. And, in the spirit of the levy’s original aims of reducing plastic waste, these carrier bags are getting more than one use, something which says can only be a good thing.

“I have to say, I laughed when I first heard about this,” Mark Hall, spokesperson at, commented. “Obviously, it means the supermarket will miss out on bag sales, the profit from which could be donated to good causes as it is in some supermarkets – but ideally there wouldn’t be any revenue from bags at all and consumers would recycle their old ones.

“In this case, if these bag-sellers are using their own stash of bags to sell, then they’re helping slow the consumption of new plastic bags and that’s admirable in itself.”

In the year after the single-use plastic carrier bag levy was introduced, top retailers reported an 83% reduction in the number of bags issued – equivalent to each person in the UK using 25 new bags per year instead of 140 before the charge.

While public reaction was initially mixed, the numbers show that shoppers adjusted quickly, and the scheme has contributed to a £60 million saving in litter cleaning costs – as well as a staggering £730 million raised for good causes. The Government asked that retailers donate the proceeds of the bag levy to good causes – and 72% of those went to causes including charities and environmental funds.

And, while shoppers are more and more likely to remember to recycle their own bags, those who’ve forgotten to bring one along aren’t phased by these enterprising carrier bag salespeople.

Chris, 73, from Nottingham, said: “It’s usually kids I see selling them – and it’s better than them getting up to no good. If I can’t carry my shopping then I’m happy to pay a bit less to them for a bag!”

Mark Hall concluded: “Hats off to the budding entrepreneurs, of course. But for those shoppers getting caught short – most households have plenty of carrier bags lying around. If you’re prone to forgetting your bags then pop to your car and put a handful in your glovebox or boot now. You could even keep one in the pocket of your coat if you tend to walk to the shop – that way you’ll always have one with you.

“Not only will you be saving yourself a few pennies each time – and they all add up – but you’ll be doing your bit to ensure we reduce the damage plastic waste causes to the environment.”

Picture: I'm not asking for 5p, not even 4p - young entrepreneurs are flogging re-use shopping bags for less than the supermarkets. Wouldn't it be nice if they were collecting bottles and redeeming deposits?


Article written by Brian Shillibeer


Related Articles

What Can You Do About Plastic In The Workplace?

The Earth Day Network has launched a Plastic Pollution Calculator for individuals and we have some top tips from the Planet Mark on how to reduce plastic in the...

 Read Full Article
Recyclable Cups? - Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

The use of disposable cups that are difficult to recycle and the lack of specialist reprocessing facilities in the UK results in fewer than 1 in 400 being...

 Read Full Article
A Refreshing Idea - Will You Provide A Public Fountain

Tens of thousands of water refill stations are being created by publicly minded organisations to help reduce a dependence on plastic bottles.   People will be...

 Read Full Article
China Ban - What Happens to World's Waste?

Christine Cole, Research Fellow, Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, Nottingham Trent University discusses the impact China's ban on imports of 24...

 Read Full Article
The Plastic Reuse Swindle - Sent Abroad Or Not Recyclable

Two-thirds of plastic in packaging pots and trays is unrecyclable the Local Government Association has warned in week ending Aug 10. So manufacturers must scrap the...

 Read Full Article
Corporate Societal Impact - What Are The Measures?

A study has examined the methods companies use to measure their impact on society. The Conference Board (with bases in a number of countries) has released a study with...

 Read Full Article
Care Firm Pioneers Company Wide Recycling Scheme

One of the UK’s largest private care providers has launched an initiative to recycle half of the waste it produces. The Regard Group, which provides supported...

 Read Full Article
#BeatPlasticPollution - A World Environment Day Campaign

Plastic is an important material in our economy and daily lives, wrote Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis on June 5 - World Environment Day. Plastic has multiple functions...

 Read Full Article
As Summer Starts, There's No Cups For Scotland

A Holyrood Committee has welcomed the environmental elements of the Scottish Crown Estate Bill in a report published week ending June 1 (the start of metrological...

 Read Full Article
Filtering Out The Filter Disposal Conundrum

Health, safety and energy efficiency are influences on the ventilation and air conditioning market, writes Richard Betts of RABScreen. This has, in turn, encouraged...

 Read Full Article