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 28.

    The real environmental problem is not the carrier bags, but the often non-recyclable packaging of the items in the bags. As most of us now know from the need to separate our refuse, the volume of plastic in this packaging is far more than that of carrier bags. I'd be happy to see this charge if a) it didn't just go into supermarkets' profits; b) supermarkets were made to minimise packaging.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Many of the disposable bags are actually biodegradable - try using them to store things around the house and you'll find they crumble to dust after a few months! We use them as bin liners and here in Hampshire most waste goes for incineration so they end up generating energy. The real problem is careless people who litter, not responsible shoppers. A 5p charge is simply another way to fleece us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Just stop giving out plastic bags !

    @Alice2010 Comment 7. You re not forced to buy anything ... In France we buy initial "sturdy' bag (s) for very little, which are replaced free of charge by the supermarket once they become unusable. We also have biodegradable bags for dustbins no need to pollute !

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I think we are all in favour of reducing using plastic bags but don’t know the best way to go about it. I would suggest at the least if you bring this in then bags4life should be given out free and that if you have to just top up using a bag there should be no charge so maybe 5p for every 2 bags.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Again with this. Good god, just provide paper bags like in the US!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Just ban them like Toronto and people will adapt. A simple problem with a simple fix.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Seeing most bags have the name of the store on them, why should we pay for advertising that store as we walk home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    As the Scottish Parliament has no tax raising powers, its bringing in stealth taxes. Minimum pricing for alcohol, charge for carrier bags, it will soon find a way to reclaim this money.

    Another power trip for the silly Salmond.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I urge everyone to vote 'YES' in the 2014 referendum on Plastic Bags

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I would hope that the whole country is charged for plastic bags not just Scotland ,I work in Superdrug and find it hard when you see the damage plastic causes around our world and when you say these kill turtles and seals along with other animals they look at you if you have two heads!! if you go back to my youth everyone had there own bags.we should stop this through away society save our world

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I'm pretty sure the majority of people re-use plastic bags as bin liners. Rate up if you do the same please... want to see if it's just me and everyone I know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    It is fine charging for carrier bags but suppliers have to be more responsible as well and only use packaging where really necessary and then only use totally degradable packaging. We see campaigns to reduce carriers but then everything is supplied pre wrapped in plastic bags or on polystyrene trays. so the shoppers pay all round which is wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    There was an incredible difference in Eire before and after they brought in a similar law. Many of those bags did not even go to landfill, but were simply discarded and left to blow round the streets. In the UK, I remove at least one from my garden every day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    In the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is a swirling pile of plastic about the size of Western Europe. It's called the Great Garbage Patch Pacific. Much more plastic has broken down by UV light into microscopic pellets which are eaten by fish or other sea animals. It enters the food chain and eventually ends up inside us! So if you don't want to eat plastic, try to use less of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I got told in my local co-op to "bring co-op bags next time" as I filled a tesco bag with my shopping. ...I tipped the shopping back on to the check-out and took my bag elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    From the comments made it would appear that most people do not see the problem of us making more and more rubbish. I think the scheme should be extended to include all the take aways, as the people who use theses drop a large percentage of the wrappings. Lets go back to 1960 when there were no bags and we took our own.May be time to have litter and start fining £500 for dropping waste.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    40 years ago all our domestic rubbish would fit in a small dustbin. Now we need 4 huge wheelie bins and the main reason is the massive increase in unnecessary packaging by supermarkets. Hammer the supermarkets along with fast food outlets which is the other main cause of town centre litter and the problem will reduce. Plastic bags are useful however as they are ideal for use as pedal bin liners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Here in South Africa, a similar law was brought in a few years ago. Everyone railled against it then too. But the results have been very positive. The effort to recycle a plastic carrier bag is small but filters through to other elements of daily life. You're honestly moaning about a minor thing - worry about your road-fund tax or paying university charges. Buying bags is good all round!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Yesterday I forgot my 'bags for life' and my shop went in 7 carriers. 35p? Would that have made me drive all the way home to get my bags? Er,no. Make them £2 each.That would make people less 'forgetful' when it comes to shopping bags. 5p won't make a jot of difference.


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