Plans for 5p plastic bag charge in Scotland


Plastic bag use in Wales has been significantly reduced since a scheme was introduced last year

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Shoppers would need to pay a minimum of 5p for a plastic carrier bag under proposals being put out to consultation by the Scottish government.

The charge is among a range of suggestions aimed at cutting litter and protecting the environment.

The plans are similar to the system brought in by the Welsh government in October.

Early results from Wales show reductions in carrier bag use of up to 90% in some supermarket chains.

The three-month Scottish consultation, which will launch on Wednesday, is part of an SNP manifesto commitment to "seek to phase out free plastic bags in supermarkets".

The consultation will cover the following proposals:

  • A requirement for all retailers to charge
  • This includes all thin gauge/disposable carrier bags, regardless of material
  • Setting the minimum charge at 5p

The Scottish government will seek the public's views on how best to encourage people to re-use plastic bags. It believes a bag charge could raise up to £5m every year, which would be donated to charities.

'Good causes'

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Carrier bags are a highly visible aspect of litter. By reducing the amount being carelessly discarded we can cut waste and its impact on our environment and economy. A small charge should also encourage us all to stop and think about what we discard and what can be re-used.

"This initiative will see retailers donating the proceeds to charitable good causes. It is hoped this could be up to £5m per year after retailers have covered their costs."

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: "The evidence from Wales is that a small charge is easy to implement and has a huge impact on shopper's behaviour, which can only be a good thing for litter in our towns and for our wildlife, seas and beaches.

"Countries as diverse as Rwanda, Italy and Bangladesh have gone even further and have an outright ban on certain plastic bags because they recognise the negative impact that they are having.

"I ask those who oppose this policy to question whether there is such a thing as a free plastic bag. And who picks up the bill for littered cities and polluted seas?"

'Handed incentives'

But Scottish Conservative environment spokesman Jamie McGrigor said: "Scotland is a very wet country, particularly in the west, and using other types of carrier bag just isn't practical in the way it is in other European countries.

"People will feel that, after spending a significant amount of money on their weekly shop, this is just another expense.

"Somebody will be making good money out of this, because the production cost of a plastic bag won't be anything like 5p.

"I'm all for people reusing more sustainable bags, but my view is people who do should be handed incentives, rather than bringing punishment to those who do not."

The Republic of Ireland introduced a charge of 15 euro cents (12p) per bag in March 2002, which led to a 95% reduction in plastic bag litter. Within a year, 90% of shoppers were using long-life bags.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    5p tax to reduce litter and pollution - sounds fine. But, what about people like me; a disabled, housebound, pensioner? I do all my shopping via the internet. My weekly groceries come in plastic bags, am I pay an extra 5p per bag? Note: All the bags are returned on the next delivery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    I have purchased few carrier bags last year and they are still in a good shape. I keep couple of those in my car, home & office. This allows me to have bags handy when needed. It need a bit of planning and we all can save environment. I support 5P move as many people voluntarily take care of environment whereas on others dont care unless they are asked to pay more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    why cant we have paper bags with big paper handles like clothes shops ? more expensive to buy, but these can be put in recycling wheras plastic bags cannot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    My mother's side of the family works in the recycling of plastics. The stronger, more resilient canvas bags we find in supermarkets actually take 18 times more energy to produce than a standard plastic bag, and the supermarkets make a huge mark-up. Whilst I am fully supportive of a 5p charge, I feel alternatives such as organic cotton bags should also be promoted instead of plastic alternatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    I have lived with this law in Wales and, much like the smoking ban, I have gone from being sceptical prior to implementation to wholly supportive following.

    It takes a miniscule degree of planning to ensure I have the stronger, bigger and more comfortable canvas bags with me when I shop. I do not miss the unreliable, smaller and sometimes painful plastic ones.


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