5p charge leads to major reductions in plastic bag usage

Scotland’s 5p carrier bag charge has helped to reduce the use of plastic bags by 80 per cent in its first year, according to figures announced by Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead.

The reduction amounts to up to 650 million bags, or 134 bags for every person in Scotland. Major chains including Morrisons, the Cooperative, Waitrose, and Boots all reported a reduction in plastic carrier bag use of at least 80 per cent. Sainsbury’s phased out plastic carrier bags entirely.

Decreased bag production has saved at least 4,000 tonnes of plastics and prevented 2,500 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Proceeds from the 5p charge, which have thus far amounted to £6.7 million, must be donated to charitable causes.

The news comes on the heels of England’s introduction of a similar charge, making it the last country in the UK to adopt such a law.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the news but cautioned against complacency, calling for further action on issues of environmental degradation.

Writing in The Scotsman’s opinion section, Derek Robertson, chief executive of environment charity Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “Whilst the reduction is to be welcomed, our research tells us that this has yet to lead to fewer bags littering our environment.

“There are still too many on our streets, on pavements and verges. For us all, and particularly at Keep Scotland Beautiful, litter and littering remain a significant concern. As the Scottish Government indicated, when launching its National Litter Strategy in 2014, as a country, we have much to do if we are to eradicate littering behaviour.

“Therefore, simply reducing the prevalence of single-use carrier bags is unlikely, in and of itself, to create the litter free Scotland we all want to see.”

Speaking to The Student, Edinburgh residents said they had observed a noticeable difference in the amount of littered plastic bags on the city streets.

A fourth year student who asked not to be identified said: “This law really is a no-brainer. There is no good reason anyone should still be using single-use carrier bags.

“I’ve gotten into the habit of just bringing my rucksack to the shops. That requires about two seconds of forethought, something I imagine even Pollock Halls freshers are capable of – and most of them haven’t even learned to dress themselves or use a washer yet.

“Unless I’m doing a big shop, the rucksack is totally fine. I bring reusable bags when I need to carry more.

“If I were in charge, I’d probably ban single-use plastic bags entirely.”

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