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Carrier bag use in Scotland has fallen by 80%

carrier bagsCarrier bag use has fallen by about 80% since the 5p charge was introduced a year ago today.

This is equivalent to at least 650 million fewer bags being handed out annually. The charge has raised £6.7 million for good causes.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment Richard Lochhead revealed the latest data during a visit to an outlet of Boots, one of Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment signatories.

He said: “The 5p charge has been a major success. 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.

“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. I am confident that Scotland is going to go from strength to strength in its bid to tidy up our streets and beaches, where litter has been a highly visible problem in the past.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said: “With retailers in Scotland reporting a reduction of 80% in the use of single use carrier bags, it’s evident that Scottish shoppers have embraced a new shopping habit. It’s not always easy to change our habits, but Scotland is proving it has this in the bag.

“Many organisations have already agreed to donate money raised by the 5p charge to good causes, by signing up to Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment. Other retailers across the country are now being urged to follow suit.”

Morrisons, the Co-operative and Waitrose have indicated a reduction of 80% bag usage, Asda a 90% fall, while Sainsbury’s no longer offers them to shoppers.

Stephen Watkins, head of customer experience North & East Scotland at Boots UK, added: “We want to help our customers care for the environment while making a difference in their local communities.

“We’ve seen a really positive effect in our stores in Scotland since the introduction of the charge in 2014, with an estimated reduction of around 80 per cent in carrier bag usage. We’ve also been able to offer significant support to Macmillan Cancer Support and the important work that they do for those affected by cancer in Scotland.

He said that the company was donating the net proceeds of the sale of bags to BBC Children In Need.

The reduction of 650 million bags means that the net material saving is more than 4,000 tonnes annually (equivalent to more than 500 million single use carrier bags) and the net carbon saving is more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually.

This accounts for total reductions offset by estimated increases in other forms of plastic bag – for example reusable bags for life and small bin liners.

Full year data is not yet available, these results should be seen as an interim conclusion based on best available evidence, but significant divergence is not expected.

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