Shoppers Charged For Carrier Bags

20 October 2014, 06:02

Shoppers will have to pay for carrier bags from today as a minimum charge for every bag given out is introduced.

It will now cost at least 5p for each single-use carrier bag as the charge covers all retailers including supermarkets, high street stores, corner shops and takeaways.

The charge applies regardless of whether the bags are paper, plastic or made from a biodegradable material.

MSPs overwhelmingly backed the introduction of the charge in a vote at Holyrood earlier this year.

The Scottish Government said councils pick up an estimated 7.4 million bags a year and the charge has been introduced to reduce the number that become litter.

Tesco is pledging the funds raised to environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful. Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Huge numbers of these bags end up as litter, blighting our communities and clogging up our seas and natural habitats, affecting many sorts of wildlife and marine species in particular.

"We want that to change and for people to stop and think about whether they really need to take another bag. Alternatives like bags for life are easy to get and are much more sustainable.''

He said it was "extremely heartening'' to see retailers sign up to a commitment that includes a pledge to donate money raised through the charge to good causes around Scotland.

Derek Robertson, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: "Our work with Tesco will make the best use possible of the money they collect from the bag charge.

"We have a unique reach across Scotland to deliver real change with these funds. We've delivered significant environmental improvements before and these bag charge proceeds will allow us to do more, making Scotland cleaner, greener and more sustainable.

"This new charge for bags will be transformational for the environment.''

Figures have shown similar charges introduced in Wales and Northern Ireland saw drops in new bag use of around 80% and 70% respectively, environmental groups said.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Plastic bags are just one symbol of our throwaway society and charging for their use is an important step in changing people's behaviour.

"If the Scottish public don't respond positively to this then we should examine other options including increasing the charge per bag or phasing out the sale of single-use plastic bags.''

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: "We know that in other parts of the world charges for plastic bags have led to dramatic reductions in their use, as well as positive changes in consumer behaviour. A great example is Denmark, which introduced a charge in 2003 and now has the lowest plastic bag use in Europe, using four plastic bags per person per year.

"At present Scots consume nearly 800 million carrier bags every year with millions ending up in landfill, polluting our environment and threatening wildlife.''

The Marine Conservation Society said the charge was a major step forward in tackling a problem that causes "so much harm'' to marine wildlife.

Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland which is supporting retailers to help them understand their legal requirements under the new regulations, said: "In Scotland we use hundreds of millions of single-use bags a year - an absurdity when you consider the resources used to make and transport an item for one use, before ending up as landfill or litter.''