Plan to carry out 5p plastic bag tax on track

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SHOP bosses have given a cautious welcome to a scheme which will see shoppers charged five pence for carrier bags.

The country-wide legislation is on course for an autumn roll-out of the new levy.

Under the initiative shops employing more than ten people will have to charge for bags – as part of a plan to cut down on consumer waste. Retailers will have to donate the proceeds to charities, including environmental groups, which ministers estimate could raise up to £5 million a year.

The charge will apply to bags “of any material, not just ­plastic” but there are some exceptions – bags for prescriptions are exempt.

Edinburgh businesses had mixed views on the scheme, with some pleased it will encourage reusable bags, while others fear it is another level of red tape for hard-pressed retailers.

Colin Borland, head of 
external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, doesn’t think it will “put anybody out of business on its own”.

But he added: “It’s one more thing at a time when we’re trying to revitalise the high street and give our retailers a bit of a boost.”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said Scotland had the highest levels of carrier bag usage per head in the UK, with 750 million bags used every year.

He said: “The proposed charge from October will encourage reuse and prevent litter. A charge has been successful in other countries and I believe it will have a similarly positive impact here in ­Scotland.”

‘It encourages bag reuse’

Iain Wells, finance manager at Margiotta Stores, said the legislation would give shoppers an incentive to reuse bags.

He said: “We started our own 5p carrier bag system in 2010. We pay 2p for the bags, and donate the full amount to Save the Children. We’ve donated between £12,000 to £14,000 to Save the Children for the last four years.

“It doesn’t come without its problems, you get a bit of resistance at the till point.”

He said he did not have exact figures, but estimated that the system had cut back on bag usage by up to 40 per cent.

Mr Wells added: “It encourages people to reuse bags, and we also give them the cloth options as well.”

‘Most people are halfway there already’

MATTHEW Halsall, the operations manager for the Manna House Bakery and Patisserie in Easter Road, welcomed the move.

He said: “It’s good for the environment, and most people are halfway there already.

“This is giving them that little bit more incentive, and if it raises money for charity then how can it be a bad thing?

“Our carrier bags are already paper, and I think this is a great idea.

“A lot of our regular customers bring in their own carrier bags.

“I know at least one retailer nearby who has already started charging 10p for bags and nobody has complained. I worked in Ireland not long after the idea was introduced there.

“Everybody would unload a bag full of bags and they would just get on with it. This kind of initiative makes people think a bit more carefully, and I think our regular customers will take it all in their stride.”

‘We created so much waste’

Tony Johnston, the director of specialist grocery chain Peckham’s, praised the new levy.

He said: “We have been doing this ourselves for four years on a voluntary basis, and if we take £2000 in revenue from carrier bags we give £4000 to charity.”

Peckham’s had explored the idea of free carrier bags but discovered it led to increased waste.

Mr Johnston said: “We were giving out over a million carrier bags a year and we are not that big a company. We created so much waste through packaging, and I felt that was wrong. So I looked at ways of reducing this.

“Too much time has been spent avoiding issues that should be tackled now for our children and children’s children.”

When the voluntary charge was introduced, the number of carrier bags issued went from a million to 400,000.