Anya Hindmarch to launch new generation shopping bag in collaboration with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose

Sainsbury's has launched their own exclusive edition of The Universal Bag

Fourteen years ago, the ground-breaking “I Am Not A Plastic Bag” campaign* (first launched in Sainsbury’s stores) raised awareness of the global issue of single-use plastic bags. Since then, use of single-use plastic bags has reduced dramatically, with sales falling 95% in the main supermarkets between 2015 and 2020, after the UK government introduced legislation to address the issue. Whilst this is fantastic progress, nearly half a billion single-use plastic bags were still sold between 2020 and 2021 according to recent government data [1].

Anya Hindmarch, in collaboration with supermarkets UK-wide, is launching a new initiative designed to inspire further change in consumer behaviour, providing a new shopping bag solution and encouraging a greater reuse mindset. The ambition being to create a reusable shopping bag that tackles a range of sustainability challenges in combination:

In an industry first, the project is defined by Eco not Ego, with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose coming together and collaborating with Anya Hindmarch and Solent Group to create a new generation shopping bag.

The project, open to all supermarkets globally, will allow each partner to customise their own exclusive version of The Universal Bag in keeping with their own brand.

Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, the pioneering partners in this project, are the first supermarkets to launch their own exclusive edition of The Universal Bag. The Sainsbury’s edition will launch on 2nd December 2021 across 334 stores (RRP £10), with the Waitrose edition available on 26th January 2022 in over 90 stores initially (RRP £10).

The bag is made from 100% recycled plastic and each step and material used in making the bag has been fully certified under the Global Recycling Scheme (GRS), making this a truly 100% recycled product.

Each Universal Bag is guaranteed to last ten years having been extensively tested for durability.

The Universal Bag features an innovative, convenient freepost returns pouch built into a pocket inside the bag. You simply turn the bag into its built-in pocket which acts as a pre addressed envelope, and then post it through a letter box. It is then 100% recycled locally.

In addition to being practical and durable, the Universal Bag is also designed to be desirable. By creating a bag that customers feel excited to be seen with and are motivated to take care of, reuse is expected to increase, tackling one of the major issues still surrounding the shopping bag.

In line with the collaborative philosophy of this project, Anya Hindmarch and its production partner Solent Group, have committed to share the learnings from this project with all global retailers on request, with the ambition to advance progress in the use, reuse and recycling of shopping bags around the world.

Anya Hindmarch, Founder and Creative Director commented: “Everyone needs a bag to move things around. The Universal Bag is designed to offer an alternative solution that saves plastic from landfill, is simple to recycle 100%, is guaranteed for 10 years, and is hopefully special enough to inspire people to use it.

When you throw something away, there is no “away”. By collaborating on this project supermarkets are showing their continued commitment to reducing the amount of plastic on our planet.”

Mark Given, Chief Marketing Officer, Sainsbury’s commented: “We are serious about reducing plastic and we know it’s an issue our customers and colleagues are passionate about too. It’s why we set an ambitious target to reduce our use of plastic packaging by 50% by 2025 and committed to making it easier for our customers to recycle while offering them more reusable options when they shop with us. It’s for this reason that fourteen years after we first partnered with Anya Hindmarch on the ground-breaking ‘I Am Not A Plastic Bag’ we’re delighted to join forces with her again on a brilliant new initiative, The Universal Bag. Reducing plastic and tackling the climate crisis can’t be solved in isolation, it requires collaboration and we’re proud to represent that message and inspire change as part of Anya’s new campaign.”

James Bailey, Executive Director, Waitrose commented: "We recently took the decision to remove our bags for life as our research showed that they were increasingly being treated as a single use item, and this is part of our commitment to only use plastic where it can be recycled, reused or home composted by 2023. Plastic will continue to have its uses but we must not create any more of it unnecessarily. Instead, we must repurpose, reuse and make existing plastic materials circular - this is why we're excited to be an early adopter of Anya Hindmarch's new Universal Bag as it is a great example of circularity at work."

Ashley Symonds, CEO Solent commented: “Both Anya and Solent have a shared heritage in creating and producing market disrupting initiatives that help customers to lead healthier and more sustainable lives. We are delighted to have partnered with Anya and her team on the Universal Bag which further supports the reduction and need for single use plastics. The Universal Bag is a beautiful and high performing product that encourages customers to buy into reusability and sustainability; it's not a bag you'd ever feel comfortable throwing in the bin. Given the durability of the bag, ideally, it will never need to be recycled but, if it does, we have made it easy for the customer to get it back into the recycling stream – a process that has never been done before. The Universal Bag is a true market first and another step change in our mission to end single use plastic bag usage once and for all.”


 ** About the “I Am Not A Plastic Bag” campaign
The I’m Not A Plastic Bag tote was designed by Anya in 2007 as part of a collaborative project with Antidote and global social change movement We Are What We Do (now known as Shift). After thousands of people queued to purchase the tote from Sainsbury’s (80,000 on launch day), the project garnered huge press coverage globally, ignited the debate around the use of plastic bags and contributed to the eventual decision to charge for plastic bags in the UK. The British Retail Consortium estimated that in 2006, before the I’m not a Plastic Bag project, the UK used 10.6 billion plastic bags. In 2010, after the project, his figure dropped to 6.1 billion. Sainsbury's cut the number of bags they gave away by 58% in the 2 years that followed the campaign, giving out 312 million fewer bags in 2009 than in 2007 and saving 13,200 tonnes of virgin plastic over two years. Read more about the project here: https://www.anyahindmarch.com/pages/im-not-a-plastic-bag


[1] Single-use plastic carrier bag data from the Department for Environment Food & Rural affairs, updated 30 July 2020:

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