Scottish shoppers use 150m fewer carrier bags following single-use charging

by Search Gate staff. Published Fri 24 Jul 2015 13:20
Single-use carrier bag charges prove a success in Scotland
Single-use carrier bag charges prove a success in Scotland

Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has welcomed the news that carrier bag usage was reduced by 147 million last year, despite the charge on single use carrier bags only being in place for the last 11 weeks of the year.

The figures, published by WRAP today, cover the 2014 calendar year for the UK from seven major grocery retailers. In Scotland, bag usage dropped from 193.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 64.6 million during the same period in 2014, suggesting that Scotland is well on track to achieve a reduction of more than 80 per cent in the use of single-use carrier bags.

Mr Lochhead said: “These astounding figures – a reduction of 147 million – are yet another indication that the single use carrier bag charge has been a tremendous success, driving behaviour change to reduce litter across our beautiful country and also the amount of resources we, as a nation, consume.

“Litter is a blight on our environment and I’m delighted with the reports we’ve received from these retailers. I’m pleased that so many consumers are now in the habit of reusing bags and the level of support from the Scottish public is extremely heartening.

“Previously 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. Scotland is serious about tackling litter, reducing waste and creating a cleaner, greener environment for everyone to enjoy.

“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. These figures also demonstrate how small changes can make a big difference and as Scotland moves towards a more circular economy, I hope that it inspires people to think about what other actions they can take to reduce the amount of resources that they throw away.”

These figures are consistent with feedback received from retailers that they have noted a reduction in use of more than 80 per cent since the charge was introduced on 20 October 2014. Wales and Northern Ireland both introduced similar charges and experienced reductions of more than 80 per cent in the first full year of their charge.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “In the months since the Carrier Bag Charge was introduced, we’ve seen a tremendous change in Scots shoppers’ habits, with many more people now bringing re-useable bags. I congratulate people for the drop in single-use bags in circulation, as these single-use items usually quickly end up either as litter or landfill.

“Retailers have also embraced the charge and I would encourage those who’ve not yet done so to sign up to our Carrier Bag commitment, to enable clear reporting and donation to good causes.”

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “It’s fantastic to learn that carrier bag usage in Scotland has dropped so spectacularly since the 5p charge was introduced. As well as removing millions of bags from circulation, it’s also great that over two million pounds has 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. The clear success of this initiative should encourage Ministers to press on with other bold ideas to help make Scotland a zero-waste nation.”

More than 60 retailers have also signed up to Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment, a voluntary agreement operated by Zero Waste Scotland, to donate the net proceeds of the charge to good causes. This includes representatives from a range of retail sectors and has already raised more than £2 million for good causes throughout Scotland.

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