Scotland

Charge cuts plastic bags by 147 million in Scotland

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Media captionSteph McGovern visits Stockport to find out if people there believe that people should pay for plastic bags

The number of plastic bags handed out by supermarkets in Scotland fell by 147 million last year - the first figures since a 5p charge was introduced.

The reduction came despite the levy for single-use bags only being in place for the final 11 weeks of the year.

But in England - where large shops will have to charge for plastic bags from October - 200 million more bags were used in 2014, Defra research suggested.

Northern Ireland saw usage fall by 42.6%, while Wales had a rise of 5.2%.

The fall in Scotland follows statistics released three months ago, which suggested the number of carrier bags being used by shoppers had fallen by 90%.

October change

However, in England, the number of single-use bags from supermarkets rose from 7.4 billion in 2013 to just over 7.6 billion last year, statistics from waste reduction body Wrap suggested.

The figures covered the 2014 calendar year in the UK from seven major grocery retailers.

From October, all retailers in England with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees will have to charge a minimum of 5p for bags they give out in stores and for deliveries.

The move will bring England in line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Number of plastic bags given out
Number of bags (millions) 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 % change since 2010
England 6,287 6,760 7,061 7,402 7,635 21.4
Wales 351 273 62 73 77 -78.2
Scotland 752 753 761 803 656 -12.8
Northern Ireland 173 188 193 57 33 -81.2
UK 7,568 7,977 8,079 8,335 8,401 11
Source: Wrap

In Scotland, in the final quarter of the year following the introduction of the 5p charge was introduced, bag usage dropped by 129 million compared with the previous year.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the figures were "astounding" and showed the country was serious about tackling litter and reducing waste.

"I hope the public will continue to embrace re-using their bags and that even more retailers will sign up to donate money to good causes when it has been necessary for people to take a bag," he said.

A 'big difference'

He said the figures demonstrate how "small changes can make a big difference".

The Scottish government has said it aims to reduce the use of single-use bags in Scotland by 80% in the first full year of the charge.

Wales and Northern Ireland achieved similar figures in the first full year of their campaigns.

Previous statistics showed that people in Scotland used more than 800 million new single-use carrier bags every year - more per head of population than anywhere else in the UK.

Last year, Northern Ireland saw the number of bags handed out fall by 42.6%, following a previous drop of 71% after a carrier bag charge was introduced in April 2013.

Wales saw a 5.2% increase last year, but the number of bags handed out in Wales has fallen by 78.2% since 2010, the figures showed.

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