Scotland will from today require all retailers to charge customers a minimum of 5p for each new single-use carrier bag, in an effort to reduce plastic pollution and clean up streets.
From Monday, food and non-food shops in Scotland will charge a minimum of 5p for each carrier bag, including plastic and paper ones, as well as those made from some plant-based materials.
Although the money raised belongs to the individual businesses, the government has encouraged retailers to donate the proceeds to good causes.
The move has been widely welcomed by environmental campaigners, who hope it could help reduce the amount of plastic pollution on land and in the sea. Similar rules have already been introduced in many European states, including Wales and Northern Ireland.
Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland said “At present Scots consume nearly 800 million carrier bags every year with millions ending up in landfill, polluting our environment and threatening wildlife. According to the UN, over a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals are killed every year by the plastic littering our oceans.
“Single use carrier bags are symbolic of our wasteful attitude to resource use which must be addressed if Scotland’s vision of a zero waste future is to be realised.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon added that plastic bags are one symbol of a ‘throwaway society’ that needs changing.
“Experience from Northern Ireland and Wales suggests that charging for plastic bags will cut down on their use by 70-80%”, he said.
“It is vital that our attitudes towards using and throwing away valuable resources improve if we are to reduce our impact on the environment and wildlife”.
The UK government proposed a similar measure last year, but the plan was labelled a ‘mess’ by a government committee and green groups because it would exclude small retailers, paper and biodegradable bags. Meanwhile, figures released in July suggested plastic bag use in England had increased by more than 3% since 2012.
Photo: Dave Bleasdale via Flickr