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 408.

    '115 Chris, Yes another rip off idea aimed at hitting the already annoyed and highly pressed shopper'

    Think of it like a tax on the lazy and stupid

  • 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 406.

    If we have to pay 5p for a plastic bag ,we will demand stronger bags from the supermarkets .It is not always practical to go out with a shopping bag for that spur of the moment purchase and for those with poor memories which are often the elderly struggling on a low income who will be penalised for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    The supermarket I use charges for reusable bags but then replaces damaged ones for free(bags for life).This way I feel I am doing my very small bit for the environment and do not feel I am being ripped off by the supermarket. My only responsibility is to remember to take my bags with me which is a small price to pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    I live in Wales, and it really isn't a problem - the stronger bags are much better for grocery shopping, and you can easily get all sorts of other small fold-up bags to put in a handbag or pocket. We really don't need plastic carrier bags: so many of them just end up as litter caught in trees, hedges and on the seashore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    If Scotland breaks away from the UK, we could always dodge the border guards and get our plastic bags free in England.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    Yet another tax on the consumer.

    I use plastic bags every time I shop. I then use them as bin liners and they then get put in with the recycling every 2 weeks.

    I fail to see why I (or anyone else) should pay for something the Supermarkets should be taking the hit on, especially when their profits are in the billions of £.

    What will they want to tax next - my blood?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    I am sure others have already said the same but, plastic bags are not the problem - it's the complete failure to penalise those who discard them ( and much more ) Check the stats on convictions for littering in the UK ( A mere handful per year /1) Also, if you think we in the UK have a litter problem, try visiting my current place of work.........Egypt !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    366.Lawrie J
    "I work in a large retailer in England and think this would be a good idea to discourage unnecessary bag usage. I work on a tobacco kiosk...!"

    So giving someone a plastic bag is greater crime than feeding their disgusting nicotine habit !?!!?

    I'm certain Lawrie J is a genuine, concerned citizen, but the comment illustrates the confused focus that permeates society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Our local litter problem (we have rollibins) only happens when it's collection day when they empty the recycling bins. All the recycling is loose so gets blown all over the place

    The day they collect the normal rubbish, it is mostly bagged (often using plastic carrier bags) and goes directly in the dustcart

    Recycling has caused a litter problem whereas carrier bags has helped to avoid one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Excellent idea. We've had the system here in Hong Kong for nearly 4 years now. I was surprised on my last visit to the UK in 2010 that the system had yet to be introduced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    'resilient canvas bags we find in supermarkets actually take 18 times more energy to produce'

    That might be so but mine have lasted 2 years worth of shopping and still going strong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Of course we should move to biodegradable/reuseable bags/materials. I think this is what retailers are trying to do.
    *Some* people ignore or are not aware of environmental issues.
    If 5p makes us think twice about pollution and waste then GOOD!
    BTW: We always take our own bags, recycle. don't waste water and we do not have a Citreon CV or wear sandals :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    "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.


  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Charging 5p per bag will 'raise £5 million for charity'. What! Why not let the retailer keep it? Because I use few bags in my shop I have to buy them in small quantities, and I pay 4p each for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Where I live, in France, free bags were banned years ago. It just happened one day with no news coverage and no consultation. They just did it. It was inconvenient at first, we kept forgetting and ended up buying lots of re-usable bags. But we soon got used to it. Now, we keep a few bags in the car and it's no problem at all. Just do it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    379. bangers64

    I haven't done a quadruple-blind peer reviewed randomised control trial - however, I believe there is some evidence to support the hypothesis that people are idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    I shop using Hemp and/or Cotton Bags.

    Then I put my domestic rubbish in a plastic bin bag.

    Which seems a bit futile.

    What do other people do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Ah well if I can carry my own bags around Tesco's at least I wont have to wear that bloody great overcoat any more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    "When I saw the headline I thought "fantastic!", then realized it's just for Scotland"

    Did you not know it's worked (well) in Wales for a few years. The reduction of discarded plastic bags blowing about in the streets has been very noticeable.

    We've accepted it and it works well. Only gripe is that Tesco stopped giving green points in Wales - shame on you Tesco.


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