Plastic bag charge in Scotland sees usage cut by 80%

Media caption,
Shops in Scotland began charging 5p for single-use plastic carrier bags on 20 October 2014

The number of plastic bags handed out in stores was slashed by 80% - the equivalent of 650 million carriers - in the first year of Scotland's 5p charge.

New figures were released on the anniversary of its introduction.

The charge for single-use carriers has also raised about £6.7m for good causes in the past 12 months.

Scotland's Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead hailed the 5p charge a "major success", and thanked Scotland for "embracing the policy".

How has carrier bag usage fallen in Scotland?

650m -

Fewer carrier bags in 2014/15

  • 80% - Drop in bags handed out by Morrisons, the Co-operative, Waitrose and Boots

  • 90% - Drop in bags handed out by Asda

  • 100% - Drop in bags handed out by Sainsbury's


He added: "Previously, statistics showed that people in Scotland used more than 800 million new single-use carrier bags every single year - more per head than anywhere else in the UK.

"It's now becoming second nature to shoppers to reuse their carrier bags and hopefully to think more about our impact on the environment."

Morrisons, the Co-operative, Waitrose and Boots have all reported an estimated 80% reduction in carrier bag use, with Asda witnessing a drop of 90% and Sainsbury's 100% as it no longer offers them to shoppers.

In 2011, Wales was the first nation in the UK to introduce a bag charge. Northern Ireland followed in April 2013.

The policy came into being in Scotland on 20 October last year and England introduced charging at the beginning of this month.

What's the environmental saving?

Scottish government research concludes that a reduction of 650 million bags north of the border means a net saving of more than 4,000 tonnes of plastic and other materials each year.

That is the equivalent of more than 500 million single-use carrier bags once it is offset by estimated increases in other forms of plastic bag, such as bags for life.

The net carbon saving is more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually.

All retailers are being urged to sign up to Scotland's carrier bag commitment, an agreement to disclose information on the charge and donations made to good causes.

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said it was really great to see how successful the initiative had been.

He added: "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."

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