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 268.

    @252 sharpie

    Actually I am for this charge, we try to recycle our bags and my wife is pretty obsessive about taking reusable bags to the shops. I am just cynical about the motives behind it. If any gov (local or nat) is truly green then things should be net nil costs i.e we carge you 5p/bag but this green thing we are also introducing will save you x p or will make life easier in this way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    It's cute how Scotland and Wales think they have real Governments
    The Independence vote will be the first real choice I have had in 50 years, I just missed the EU vote in the 1970s
    Then we've got our own corrupt crowd at Holyrood to deal with (The Tram Scam Bunch) while staying out of Europes 4th Reich

    We don't even get a choice with plastic bags
    i.e. Our democracy needs a serious overhaul

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    I would like to see this in England as soon as possible. What does Jamie McGrigor mean about wet weather? Use the thicker reusable ones, I've had an Aldi one for about 4 years, using it 2-3 times a week. Its been an undeniable success in Wales and RoI.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    In Eire the use of plastic bags significantly decreased. However, I understand there was a significant increase in the use of black sacks and bin-liners.

    Would my shopping change? Yes, very few spontaneous purchases in the High Street and more planned visits to the out of town supermarket.

    The after-use of carrier bags is the real issue; a bag tax just creates other issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    240. Traffic_Myrm
    188. The Ace Face
    Today I will go shopping to ASDA anl take my Sainburys and Morrisins bags with me.!"

    Wow! My God, that'll show them. Tomorrow I might walk into Burtons wearing a shirt purchased from TopMan.
    I once walked in to a Jimmy Choo shop wearing Louboutin's !

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    The cost of "free" plastic bags, must already be factored into sale prices.

    These supermarkets are not charities, and exist like any business, to

    make outlandish profits. So the idea of paying twice is another swindle!

    On my planet, where the bags are still offered "free," there is a sign at

    the store entrance encouraging the return of said bags for re-cycling.

    A receptacle is provided...

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    I keep wondering why a law is not made to force the packaging people to change ALL their packaging to bio-degradeable. It would also help with the recycling tedium of separating bits from the same packaging in numerous instances.

    Although my cynical side says - as with everything else - the people making money will be catered for and life just gets harder and more expensive for everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    It really doesn'y mastter as the 5p is an irritasting littel coin anyway and can be put aside! We tried using the bigger ones but they get so filthy that there are hygiene issues after a few uses and actually the flimsy bags go in the recycling (not landfill) so they are not a problem surely? Weird reasoning when you think about it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    "Carrier bags are a highly visible aspect of litter. "
    Exactly and thats why they are targeted.
    As superficial as the politicians brains.

    Being GREEN & P.C is a very self righteous replacement religion.
    Non P.C `racist' people are `burnt at the stake' for squeaking up.
    Devotion to being GREEN includes washing out cans, sorting plastic into boxes OR FACE DAMNATION. POPULATION REDUCTION = GREEN

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    How many more policys can the tory/lib-dems come up with to hit ordinary people before they start to hammer the banks and the rich tax dodgers

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    @142 Shiela Coleman
    'Ships are a problem dropping waste at sea'
    This is a brilliant example of an individual denying their wider responsibility.

    If we didn't create so much rubbish in the first place, ships wouldn't carry our waste to China and wouldn't be dropped anywhere. We have to start realising that recycling won't solve our problem - not consuming in the first place will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.


    NHS figures clearly show reduction in lung cancer and a 17% reduction in heart attacks these are produced by the NHS not some anti-smoking lobby search for them look at countries who implemented it all show significant reduction in smoking related health issues. Again carrier bags look at wales/Italy/France/south Africa/Jersey/Ireland all the proof you need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.


    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?
    They don't. I use local farm shops.
    But lose goods have to be carried to the till somehow, don't know how to improve on that, yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    222. Yeokel
    It works well over there, why not try it over here?
    Because over here, as soon as someone says something, no matter how sensible, the obtuse put their fingers in theirs and go "lalalalalalala".

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    It would be better to encourage re-use than to penalise people by making a charge. I am responsible about plastic bags and reuse until they're no good, then dispose of them in the rubbish. Am I to have a months' Tesco order delivered loose? Am I to be charged for being a good citizen? Bad idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    247. Prophaniti - when my shopping is delivered I always have a choice of with or without bags. Are you sure you're not just missing the tick box on the screen?

  • Comment number 252.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    It's cute how Scotland and Wales think they have real Governments. Using powers like this basically just for something to do.

    Keep at it boys, you're doing a fantastic job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.


    So supermarket profits have nothing to do with what supermarkets charge their customers then?
    Not sure what bankers have to do with the debate other than it now seems compulsory to include them in every rant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    83. fuzzy
    bin liners??!


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