Scotland to increase single-use plastic bag charge

The minimum price of a single use carrier bag is set to increase from 5p to 10p, the Scottish government has announced, among a number of recent green announcements.

The Scottish Parliament will be asked to approve the increase from the 1st April 2021. The carrier bag charge was first introduced in Scotland in October 2014.

Prior to the charge, 800 million single use carrier bags were issued annually in Scotland, the government says.

By 2015 this fell by 80% with the Marine Conservation Society noting in 2016 that the number of plastic carrier bags being found on Scotland’s beaches dropped by 40% two years in a row with a further drop of 42% recorded between 2018 and 2019.

Additional measures to reduce single use plastic consumption include the banning of the sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds, with further steps to ban a number of single use items recently being consulted on.

Environment and Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Thanks to the people of Scotland, the introduction of the charge has been successful in reducing the amount of single-use carrier bags in circulation. It has also made us think about the small steps we can all take to help the environment.

“While the 5p bag charge was suitable when it was first introduced, it is important that pricing is updated to ensure that the charge continues to be a factor in making people think twice about using a single-use carrier bag.

The Scottish Government is committed to building back a greener society so by further reducing our reliance on single use items, we are taking positive steps to limit our impact on the climate and the environment

“The Scottish Government is committed to building back a greener society so by further reducing our reliance on single use items, we are taking positive steps to limit our impact on the climate and the environment.”

Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful Barry Fisher said: “Fewer single use carrier bags is great news for our environment. Since 2014 the single use carrier bag charge has significantly helped reduce the number of bags being given out by retailers – saving thousands of tonnes of single use plastic realising a significant net carbon saving and reducing the chances of these items becoming littered.

“However, there is still an opportunity to challenge individual behaviours and improve consumer awareness which the doubling of the charge will help do.

“We’ve been fortunate to develop positive partnerships with a range of well-known high street retailers, and a number of small individual store owners, who understand their responsibilities in helping to tackle Scotland’s environmental issues.

“The donations of their customer’s bag charge money have supported us to combat climate change, tackle litter and waste, and protect and enhance the places we care about.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 national lockdown, the Scottish Government is also planning to bring forward an exemption for retailers from charging for single use carrier bags for certain deliveries and collections, as was done in Spring 2020.

In 2019 Scottish Retail Consortium reported that around £2.5 million had been raised for good causes from the sale of single-use carrier bags.

Green Recovery

Communities across the country are to benefit from ‘fast-tracked funding’ to help tackle climate change and deliver Scotland’s green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish government also recently announced.

A total of 279 projects will be funded through the Community Climate Asset Fund, helping to deliver electric bikes, food growing equipment and glazing to improve energy efficiency.

The successful recipients of the Fund include:

  • Blood Bikes Scotland who have been awarded £24,896 to purchase an electric motorcycle and charging station to help reduce carbon emissions within the Lothian region by transporting urgent items for the NHS more sustainably
  • Orkney Blide Trust who have been awarded £39,659 to purchase a wheelchair-accessible electric minibus to help the people of Orkney with experience of mental ill health to access the outdoors and receive support more sustainably
  • Fair Isle Primary School and ELC who have been awarded £1,658 to purchase food growing and composting equipment to help reduce carbon emissions by growing fruits and vegetables and producing compost at the school

Biodegradable waste landfill ban

The Scottish government has also updated plans to ban all non-household biodegradable waste from entering landfill by 2025 in its Climate Change Plan update.

A ban on household biodegradable waste being sent to landfill is already in place and the Climate Change Plan 2018 – 2032 commits to consulting on extending this to cover business and non-municipal waste.

The proposals are part of a package of measures aiming to reduce food waste by one third by 2025 and recycle 70% of all waste by 2025.

Key initiatives include:

  • restrictions on the supply of specified single use plastic items, which are currently being consulted on
  • a proposed charge on single use disposable beverage cups
  • legislation to increase the carrier bag minimum charge from 5p to 10p next year
  • consultations in 2021 on electronic waste tracking, a mandatory national food waste reduction target and the mandatory reporting of Scotland’s food surplus and waste by food businesses
  • the establishment of a £70 million fund to improve local authority recycling collection infrastructure
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