Carrier bag tax will go to good causes


By 2014 Scottish retailers will charge a minimum of 5p per bag in a bid to reduce carrier bag use.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead announced the move today which follows a consultation that was held last year to gauge public opinion. He said shoppers would be encouraged to reuse carrier bags to cut down on the 750 million bags used in Scotland each year.

Regulations will be introduced in the Scottish Parliament in time for businesses to start charging by October 2014.  Other countries have already implemented a similar charge.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“Discarded carrier bags highlight our throwaway society. We use more carrier bags per head in Scotland than any other part of the UK and this is unsustainable.

“Carrier bags are a highly visible aspect of litter and we are taking decisive action to decrease their number. By reducing the amount being carelessly discarded we can cut litter and its impact on our environment and economy. A small charge should also encourage us all to stop and think about what we discard and what can be re-used.

“We have seen elsewhere that carrier bag charging has been effective in encouraging people to reuse bags. This charge is not a tax but will see retailers donating the proceeds to charity – this could be up to £5 million per year after retailers have covered their costs.

“Thousands of Scottish people already use bags for life and some retailers already charge. It is now time, however, for a national effort.”

Iain Gulland, Director, Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“Zero Waste Scotland supports initiatives that tackle litter and help achieve a zero waste society, so we welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to implement a levy on single use bags.

“We can all reduce the impact of carrier bags by making sure that when we must take one, we re-use it over and over again as many times as possible and then recycle it at the end of its life.

“Encouraging the reuse of carrier bags will complement wider action to tackle litter, which will be published later this summer. Moves to cut litter on land, in the sea and river systems will be set out as strategies for consultation.”

The scheme is subject to Scottish Parliament approval of regulations. It is intended to take effect from October 2014.

  • Retailers will be required to charge at least 5p for single-use bags.
  • This is not a tax – retailers would be expected to donate net proceeds to good causes.
  • The charge will apply to single use bags of any material, not just plastic.
  • All retailers will be required to charge, not just supermarkets, however smaller businesses will be exempt from the requirement to report centrally the numbers of bags sold and how much they have given to charity to minimise administrative burdens. These businesses will be expected to make some form of public statement of this information on their premises such as a poster for customers to see.
  • Some types of bags will be exempt, mainly for health and safety reasons and privacy such as bags for prescriptions, certain fresh foods (including fruit, unpackaged meat of or fish) and unpackaged blades. The details of which bags should be exempted will be worked out finalised in discussion with stakeholders to ensure the system is effective.