MORE than 100,000 tonnes of plastic bags are thrown away every year in the UK, taking up to 500 years to break down in landfill sites.

That shocking statistic has inspired one York shop owner to take action, and so the whole of February at The Good Food Shop is set to be Plastic Bag Free Month.

Owner Caroline Lewis is hoping the campaign will make people more aware of the amount of carrier bags they use.

From today, the shop, in Bishopthorpe Road, is going to stop providing plastic carrier bags to customers, although they will be able to buy reusable cotton bags for £1.

This will not make any profit for the shop as the bags usually sell for £1.90. Mrs Lewis is hoping more customers will remember to bring a carrier bag with them as the campaign progresses.

"I got fed up of seeing plastic bags everywhere," said Mrs Lewis.

"They seem to be given out in every shop whether you need one or not. We're all guilty of forgetting to carry a reusable bag with us all the time, even myself, so I want to encourage people to remember to keep one in their pocket or handbag at all times, particularly when they go shopping."

Currently, the shop only provides a plastic bag if a customer asks for one, and they try to reuse bags as much as possible.

However, Mrs Lewis decided to take it one step further to raise awareness of what she believes to be an important but overlooked environmental issue.

The campaign aims to encourage people to reduce the amount of carrier bags they use and to not always automatically say yes when offered one in a shop.

"In the month running up to the campaign people have been very supportive when told about it," she said. "Most customers say what a good idea it is, but we'll have to wait and see what happens when customers ask for a carrier bag and we say no."

The shop is hoping to offer incentives to people who continue to reuse their bags after the month-long campaign, such as discounts on products in-store.