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 428.

    I can't believe how naive some people are by suggesting supermarkets pick up the bill 'at their own expense' for introducing recyclable plastic bags. These are companies out to make a profit and if the government (which by the way is us and not some ethereal entity that has it's own money to play with) forces them to pay for this themselves they'll just increase their prices to cover their costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    I have no problem super markets charging 5p for a bag provided they they refund 5p for every bag returned. Enterprising youngsters could even collect them up and return them for some pocket money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    I object.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    It's interesting to see many comments are to punish packaging or other such companies.

    Why not punish the people who fundamentally believe leaving their rubbish in the street is OK? Use the money raised to support clean up incentives; those who affect the environment should repay the debt to repair it, not those who will reuse the carrier bags.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    That should save the planet and bring revenue in. I use the plastic carrier bags as pooh bags for my dogs. Now I shall have to kick the pooh to one side, as five pence is not worth the effort.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Half a good idea. Styrene, plastic, cardboard, paper, used in packaging is criminal. This packaging should be banned

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    I reuse plastic supermarket bags as kitchen bin liners.

  • 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 420.

    Just get on with it, it is a no brainer.

    Anyone can avoid it if they want too with a bit of planning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    Good idea. But almost everything you buy is overpackaged with tons more plastic than the bags account for. Working through the chain,that means wasted oil (from which plastic is a derivative), wasted paper, wasted energy/resources to produce and dispose of packaging. Fuller bins, fuller landfill.

    Would also reduce the cost of food as well. Win, win, win.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.


    "Here in south west France the majority of supermarkets just stopped providing plastic bags about 7 years ago.The big canvas bags can be bought at the tills...."

    Exactly - the manufacturer of the Canvas Bag probably lobbied to get Plastic Bags banned - so they would make millions in profits!

    I don't love plactis bags - but they are a clear, practical transport solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    I agree with the principle of this scheme but not with the money going to charity. This should work like the German bottle recycling scheme, when you return the carrier bag you either get your money back or a voucher for the equivalent amount to use in store. It works perfectly abroad with bottles, and so will work here with bags so long as the natives inherent laziness can be overcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    Yet again the plastic bag clouds the issue. Even if the supermarkets provided a paper bag, the food they sell is still wrapped in plastic (everything-sandwiches, veg, etc). If they were serious about this-they would start with this first.

    Oh, and btw M&S -if I'm paying for a bag, I'm not advertising your store, so please provide a white bag -preferably paper...

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    Would those of you obsfucating with spurious "justifications" for your environmentally unsustainable shopping habits please at least be honest enough to admit that you do not care about the mess we leave behind for descendants if doing something about causes you the slightest inconveiniance......

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    When my reusable bag is over-filled with 'excess or spontaneous' shopping from my regular walk down my local High Street I'll obtain free carriers (and recycle them for the rubbish).

    If I'm going to be taxed on my shopping bags I might as well take my walks on the rural footpaths and undertake a weekly drive to the nearby out-of-town supermarket (using folding crates and buying more black sacks)

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    But what about the lost advertising? We all parade around with their brand names in our hands at the minute, will they switch to stamping our faces with ASDA at the checkout? Or will they put more billboards up and add the cost to the weekly shop?

    You already pay for carrier bags on the cost of food. Yes, they need to reduce waste but you'll be paying for them twice this way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    379.bangers6: You asked why do people leave dog poos in plastic bags by the side of the road?
    1. I thought they were left by the dog poo fairy.
    2. Actually I believe that people want to be seen doing the right thing but not follow it up.
    3. It should be lawful to remove said bag and place it on the doorstep/car roof of the offending idiot.
    (392.massive_cynic: Yes people are idiots)

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    I use plain cotton string bags. They hold a lot of shopping, they last about 7-10 years, wash easily and take up less space than the heavier plastic 'bags for life' as well as being stronger. They include shoulder bags, so they're easier and more comfortable to carry when full.

    My guess is that the supermarkets won't sell them because they last too long and won't take their printed adverts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    396. WHL_Nick

    On the contrary, some people are only too aware of the environmental issues and do not use bio degradable bags a most use cellulose which necessitates growing the raw material on land that could otherwise be used for food production. It is my understanding that it is not just a case of using the waste straw otherwise farmers would be clamering to have it used in this way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    I take a handful of carrier bags with me from previous shopping trips and I find it fun to use ADSA bags in Morrisons, Tesco bags in Sainsburys etc and watch the staff scowl at me.


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