Scottish government plans charge for plastic bags

plastic carrier bags It is hoped the charge will reduce carrier bag use

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The Scottish government has confirmed it will introduce a 5p levy on plastic bags from October 2014.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the charge should reduce bag use in Scotland and raise £5m for good causes each year.

There are already charges on carrier bags in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The business organisation CBI Scotland said the move would mean "costly additional red tape".

Mr Lochhead said: "Discarded carrier bags highlight our throwaway society. We use more carrier bags per head in Scotland than any other part of the UK and this is unsustainable.

"Carrier bags are a highly visible aspect of litter and we are taking decisive action to decrease their number. By reducing the amount being carelessly discarded we can cut litter 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."

Start Quote

If we focus solely on plastic bags we are in danger of being distracted from much larger and more important issues around waste”

End Quote Fiona Moriarty Scottish Retail Consortium

The measure will not raise revenue for the government. Instead, the money raised will go to good causes.

Mr Lochhead added: "This charge is not a tax but will see retailers donating the proceeds to charity - this could be up to £5m per year after retailers have covered their costs."

Iain Gulland, the director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: "We can all reduce the impact of carrier bags by making sure that when we must take one, we re-use it over and over again as many times as possible and then recycle it at the end of its life."

Retailers have expresses their concern about the impact of the charge.

A CBI Scotland spokesman said: "Modest economic growth coupled with a continuing shift to internet shopping is making conditions challenging for the high street, which is already feeling the ill-effects of the Scottish government's £95m retail rates surcharge and its £36m rates levy on empty shops and other premises.

Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead made the announcement at a store in Edinburgh

"The plans for costly additional red tape in the form of an environmental levy on carrier bags, after significant success recently in reducing the use of plastic bags by voluntary means, will only make a difficult situation even tougher for retail businesses."

There was a cautious response from the Scottish Retail Consortium, which claimed carrier bag use has already fallen by 40%.

Director Fiona Moriarty said: "The Scottish government has decided that it wants further and faster reductions and the only way it can achieve this is through legislation.

"However, it is our view that if we focus solely on plastic bags we are in danger of being distracted from much larger and more important issues around waste.

"The SRC will be working with the Scottish government to ensure that the legislation is proportionate and as far as possible consistent across the UK to avoid confusion for customers and businesses."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    I'm glad we've implemented this levy; it's an excellent way to encourage more responsible handling of plastics, and, vitally, it compensates for those who aren't environmentally-inclined enough to reuse bags. Good work!

  • Comment number 234.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    For decades we've been programmed by super markets to use these things! Why can't they offer decent paper brown bags that are re-enforced, I'm sure I've seen these being used in old US movies etc. Firstly their made from recycled materials which can be re-recycled...ECO friendly. Either that or make everything from bio-degradable stuff!

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.


    Why didn't you quote the preceding sentence? Extra bags to stock up for when the charge comes in, obviously. Was that too much to figure out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Household waste in my area is put out in black plastic bin bags because the Council won't empty bins anymore. Cats and foxes often rip these bags, and as a consequence, it is not unusual to see bits of black bags blowing along streets. They are as much of a problem as carrier bags and contribute to filling landfill sites. They would be unnecessary if the Council emptied bins like they used to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    221: "On occasions I will deliberately ask for shopping bags as I use these as indoor bin liners (i.e re-use them)."

    Can you not see the contradiction there? You deliberately get extra bags to use as bin bags, meaning all you want is freebies, you're not actually reusing anything. Why do so many people lack the intelligence to see this???

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    to be honest since the bag charge i have saved quite a bit.

    I used to go through shopping malls and walk around the shops and impulse buy this and that... but since the bag charge I don't bother. There's something sub-conscious about it

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Whilst I agree that waste is an issue, it feels like we're focusing on the wrong details. The amount of plastic bags used is far less than other types of waste created and overall doesn't make a big impact on our overall waste production levels. Charging for plastic bags is merely a token ...
    Here we go again...
    If you want to resolve biggest issues first then nothing will get done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    As long as it is cheaper to waste then waste will continue.

    It iscrazy what actually gets wasted.

    So many products, especially electrical items.

    Due to UK higher wages than countrys of production, it is cheaper to throw items away than to repair them, from hoovers to printers to irons/phones.
    Waste is actually massive, mainly due to costs of repairing at UK wage levels

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    How naïve can people get? “It's going to charity”. Those same charities that government shuffles its responsibilities onto, so that it can save money for election bribes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    I work in a charity shop and I always ask customers "have you got your own bag?" rather than "would you like a bag?". This means many people either find space in a bag they're already carrying or are prepared to root for a bag that may have dropped to the bottom of their handbag etc. But I would prefer to see bags charged for as well, some customers still don't care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Recently moved abroad where there is a charge for carrier bags in the supermarkets. Bought a few bags once, and now take my rucksack whenever I go shopping. In the UK I think many people do re-use their bags, but you also see far too many discarded in the environment. In general, our approach to recycling is embarrassing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    For the creative amongst you...start making these cloth bags & sell them. Make them in different colors, have fun and give them as gifts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Yet another tax on hard working law abiding people who do not throw away litter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    As usual Govt believes in the stick rather than the carrot. Its the same rationale behind the bedroom tax, forced medicals for long-term sick etc. I have changed my behaviour with respect to supermarket shopping as bring your own bags gets you points. On occasions I will deliberately ask for shopping bags as I use these as indoor bin liners (i.e re-use them).

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    @111 pique

    I completely agree. Some health shops and eco stores (Ecover) already do this. I can't see this happening in the supermarkets though, they will continue to support the multi billion pound plastics industry!

    When will the English government levy a charge on plastic bags? I can't see the tories going for it. Sigh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    One thing's for sure, those of us who have been trying to reuse plastic bags when shopping will be taking as many as we can from supermarkets over the next 16 months. Then they'll claim a famous success, a great reduction over the previous year!

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    It works well in the Republic of Ireland where many shops no longer have to buy and stock carrier bags. It needs to be introduced in the UK as well. I agree that the 5p charge is too low but it’s a start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    I carry a rucksack instead of a handbag, and keep a heavy duty plastic bag in it in case any impulse purchases would otherwise make me take a free carrier bag. Not difficult, why do so many people whine that it would make life impossible to not use free carriers every time?

    You can get canvas bags that pack down very tiny to fit in a small pocket. It's just caring enough to get organised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Well done Scotland, well done Ireland, well done Wales.

    Here in England, we have a government that has detached itself entirely from the environment and waste, and most other internal issues. It is firmly focused upon sticking its nose into other countries' business and squandering taxpayers money on bottomless pits abroad, rather than taking a futuristic look at our carbon footprint.


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