How the plastic bag charge changed Scotland

Written by Tom Freeman on 30 October 2015 in Comment

Despite concerns over the policy's introduction in England, Scotland's experience should reassure those south of the border

England has become the last UK nation to introduce a 5p charge for plastic bags, after the number of them handed out by supermarkets in England rose by 200 million last year.

Although polls showed a majority of people in England find the idea “reasonable”, it was labelled “madness” by some of the more reactionary elements of the media.

Meanwhile in Scotland, last year saw a 650 million drop in plastic bag use after the country became an early adopter of the charge.


RELATED CONTENT

Plastic bag use falls by 80 per cent in year since introduction of 5p charge

Winter death figures prompt call for action on energy efficiency


Although full year data is not yet available, the interim conclusion from retailers shows a reduction of around 80 per cent, with funds of around £6.7m being donated to good causes as a result of the charge.

It is thought the net carbon saving of the charge is equivalent to more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 every year.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the policy had been a “major success” in changing habits.

“I thank Scotland for embracing this policy and showing we’re serious about tackling litter, reducing waste and creating a cleaner, greener environment for everyone to enjoy. It’s now becoming second nature to shoppers to reuse their carrier bags and hopefully to think more about our impact on the environment,” he said.

The data comes from Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment, an agreement to disclose information on the impact of the charge and use of the money raised.

Boots, Morrisons, the Co-operative and Waitrose indicated a reduction of 80 per cent, with Asda reporting a drop of 90 per cent, while Sainsbury’s has witnessed 100 per cent reduction of single-use carrier bags asit no longer offers them to shoppers.

Morrisons and Asda said over £700,000 each had been raised for good causes, while Co-operative Food in Scotland has showcased around 1,000 community groups, projects and good causes will benefit through grants of between £200 and £2,500 as part of more than £750,000 raised.

Divisional Managing Director John McNeill said: “The Co-operative is a community retailer with a strong heritage and commitment to the environment and to supporting its local communities.

“The Co-op shares the aspiration of reducing the number of single-use carrier bags in use. It is also encouraging shoppers to further reduce their reliance on single-use carriers by donating profits from its reusable bags to good causes too.”

The figures have been welcomed by environmental campaigners. Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “As well as removing millions of bags from circulation, it’s also great that millions of pounds have been raised for good causes across the country.

“Before the charge Scotland consumed a staggering 800 million carrier bags every year, many of which ended up polluting our environment and threatening wildlife. As an additional benefit, less resource use also means fewer carbon emissions. So, it’s really great to see just how successful this initiative has been.”

Scottish shoppers may have found it took some getting used to, but clearly they have changed the way they shop, and may offer some encouragement to their English counterparts. 

Tags

Categories

Related Articles

New clean-up campaign across Seven Lochs Wetland Park
24 May 2019

The Seven Lochs Wetland Park is currently being developed as Scotland’s largest urban heritage park

Roseanna Cunningham calls for UK Government action to help Scotland meet climate targets
21 May 2019

Scottish Government last month agreed to back Committee on Climate Change recommendations to target net-zero emissions by 2045

Sketch: The Scottish Parliament enters a parallel universe
17 May 2019

A debate on the Place Principle gets confused by the fact no one understands the Place Principle

Labour vow to nationalise energy grid in bid to tackle climate change
16 May 2019

Returning national grid to public ownership would give government more tools to decarbonise energy, Labour will say.

Related Sponsored Articles

Associate feature: 5 ways IoT is transforming the public sector
5 February 2018

Vodafone explores some of the ways IoT is significantly improving public sector service delivery

Share this page