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 248.

    moaning about having to bring your own bag when you go shopping so we can start to cut down on waste is a classic lazy "first-world problem"

    start with the bags and then move onto what's in the bags.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    I have my shopping home delivered.

    It comes seperated into plastic bags, I dont ask for this, and to be quite homnets the bags are a pain in the arse.

    So then,will I be charged for this, even though I dont have any control over it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    When will this law be introduced in England?

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    The arrogance of convenience. What do you line your bin with? errr a bin liner! arguing that you should get free carrier bags from the supermarket to line you bin with is not a great one! only food waste need really go in a bin liner most of the other packaging should go straight in recycle bin so paying out a small amount for bin liners would be nothing!

  • 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 243.

    #119. Like the smoking ban this will not work. You cannot prove that any improvements in public health (and the figures are dubious and produced by the anti-smoking lobby) are down to the ban. Similarly charging for carrier bags may not work and will,like the smoking ban.put people out of work. Its not a straightforward issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Wonderful idea. I live near "bag free" hebden bridge and you'd be amazed at the number who still come out without their own bag. A charge might jog their memories!

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    What is being done about supermarkets over-packaging goods in the first place? What do pears need to be packed on a polystyrene tray with a hard plastic moudled cover? Why does fruit & veg have to be put in those plastic bags in the self-serve section? (Fair enough about peas/sprouts etc - but bananas/apples?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    "188. The Ace Face
    Today I will go shopping to ASDA and I will take my Sainburys and Morrisins bags with me. Let's see how they like that!"

    Wow! My God, that'll show them! I can imagine them all collapsing in disbelief at the audacity of it. Tomorrow I might walk into Burtons wearing a shirt purchased from TopMan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    213 Margaret Wallace,
    "Who introduced the bags in the first place?"

    The supermarkets forced customers to use carrierr bags, for security reasons. In the 80s we started to see signs at shops telling customers to leave their bags at the door.
    Having customers walking around the store with bags and holdalls encouraged theft.
    Now things have turned full circle, but that shouldn`t surprise me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Dear Scottish Government, if you want to try something new why not ban the sale of non-biodgradeable doggie doo-dah bags in Scotland?

    I mean why aren't ALL dog waste bags bio-degradeable anyhow?

    OR create a Scottish-wide body of Councils & retailers to ensure more packaging / things get recycled. Supermarkets and others (BT, utilities) have lots of trucks on the road which could help this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    never used the free plastic bags myself , always have my propper shopping bags that milk never seems to rip through . a habbit i picked up from my mother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    I try and reuse carrier bags as often as I can. I carry a large number in the boot of the car and if I remember to take them into the supermarket with me then OK. If it turns out that I don't have enough with me and I get a bag from the shop then that is not a problem as my kitchen bin is designed to use carrier bags.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Your all being lied to again, your paying for the Advertised plastic bag.
    Then supermarkets will start using Non-Advertised plastic bags and charge you, you can get plain plastic bags free from elsewhere but if you want an Advertised bag you pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Waldo 208: For me, the new supermarket bag is the outward and visible proof to the watchful "shrinkage officers" at the door that I have paid for the goods inside them. I know the receipt does the same job but I don't want to be stopped and asked for sight of it. How do you solve that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    206, the Squiss, At that cost they may as well stop producing them altogether, which will cause more unemployment in China, ain't life a biatch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    what planet is the tory fool living on, its to wet in Scotland for other kinds of shopping bags? The shopper is being punished? Seriously is this the best a tory mouth can come up with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    This is silly. Just look at all the packaging that comes in the typical supermarket trolly. Also look at the origins of the produce sold even when the same product is available locally. This tends to shift responsibility away from the supermarket. We need a radical look at the big supermarkets not just 5p on a bag.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Ref -167.
    Just how do you propose making plastic bio-dregardable?

    The Scandinavians were making bio-degradable GLASS beer bottles over 40 years ago.

    But the real problem here is not the bags we carry stuff home in from supermarkets - it is the overpacked stuff itself. Tripple packaging is quite the norm these days.

    Sometimes I need a toolkit to get at what I have bought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Sounds fine i this case BUT...

    Have you noticed that every "green initiative" takes money out of the pockets of the man in the street and quite often puts it i the pocket of the government.


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