Environment benefits from policy

Carrier bag usage falls by 80% following charge

carrier bagsCarrier bag usage in Scotland has fallen by more than 80% since a charge was introduced last October.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead also revealed that four retailers have donated more than £1 million to good causes as a result of the single-use carrier bag charge.

Nationwide retailers that signed up to Zero Waste Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment – an agreement to disclose information on the charge, and donations made, to a central publicly available portal – are reporting that various charities up and down the country have also benefited from funds raised by the charge. It came into effect on 20 October last year.

Mr Lochhead made the announcement at an Asda store in Elgin. Over the coming months, Zero Waste Scotland will collect data on carrier bag use and funds raised for good causes ahead of the first official figures being released later this year.

Asda is indicating a more than 90% reduction in single-use carrier bag use, while raising £350,000 for two social enterprise charities – Social Investment Scotland and Foundation Scotland. The Co-operative Food has used the 5p charge to raise £375,000 for community projects across Scotland, reporting a usage reduction of 80%.

Marks & Spencer has raised £214,374 for good causes, with £88,446 going to the Marine Conservation Society, £88,446 going to WWF, including the Orkney sustainable Fishery Improvement Programme, and a further £37,482 going to a range of local Scottish charities.

The retailer is reporting an overall usage reduction of around 50% in the past six months, which is significant as it comes in addition to the reductions already achieved by the introduction of a 5p charge on larger food bags in 2008.

Morrisons has also reported an 80% reduction, and funds raised for the Morrisons Foundation – which will donate to good causes in Scotland – in line with the levels reported by the other retailers.

Other founding signatories include:

  • Scottish branches of national retailers such as McDonalds, Premier Stores, Waitrose, Argos, Austin Reed, Papyrus, Jaegar, Ted Baker, Adidas, Mango and T. M. Lewin & Sons
  • Local businesses including McEwen’s of Perth, EUSA Potter Shop, the Highland Soap Company, J&G Coia Sweetshop in Edinburgh, Taylors of Banchory, Pentland Foods, Andersons of Inverurie, and R&K Stenhouse in Clackmannanshire.
  • Top tourist destinations such as Gleneagles, The Green Welly Stop, Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, Kilmartin Museum and all sites run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Mr Lochhead said: “I’m delighted that in just six months the carrier bag charge is already making such a big impact in Scotland.

“I very much welcome the dramatic reductions in carrier bag use being reported by these major retailers. It suggests that many consumers are now in the habit of reusing bags, which should reduce the amount of litter that blights our communities and natural environment, and costs a fortune to clean up.

“This primary purpose of this legislation is to clean up our streets and beaches by cutting carrier bag use. But it’s also fantastic that the charge has already raised so much money for worthy causes from just these four retailers alone.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg and I am looking forward to seeing fuller figures later in the year – but in the meantime I encourage all retailers to sign up to the Carrier Bag Commitment to ensure that shoppers can have full transparency over where the money being raised from the charge is going.”

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Over the past six months, we’ve seen an incredible change to shopping habits in Scotland. Shoppers have embraced the 5p charge and rapidly reduced their consumption of single-use carrier bags more readily than we ever hoped.

“I’d like to thank all the founding signatories published today, to our Carrier Bag Commitment, and urge more retailers to join them. Initial feedback from signatories suggests that more than £1 million has been raised for good causes in Scotland and by embracing the 5p single-use bag charge, businesses and shoppers are helping reduce waste and repair the damage already done. We can all be proud of that.”

Asda’s Senior Director for Scotland Kevin McBride said: “We want the carrier bag charge to have long-term social – as well as environmental – benefits.”

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