THE number of plastic carrier bags handed out in stores was slashed by at least 650 million in the first year of Scotland’s 5p charge.
New figures released on the anniversary of its introduction indicate the levy has cut usage by around 80 per cent, equivalent to 650 million fewer bags than in previous years.
It’s now becoming second nature to shoppers to reuse their carrier bags and hopefully to think more about our impact on the environmentRichard Lochhead
The charge for single-use carriers has also raised around £6.7 million for good causes in the past 12 months.
Morrisons, the Co-operative, Waitrose and Boots have all reported an estimated 80 per cent reduction in carrier bag use, with Asda witnessing a drop of 90 per cent and Sainsbury’s 100 per cent as it no longer offers them to shoppers.
Announcing the figures, Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead hailed the 5p charge as a “major success”.
He said: “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.”
Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “It’s not always easy to change our habits but Scotland is proving it has this in the bag.”
A reduction of 650 million bags means a net saving of more than 4,000 tonnes of plastic and other materials each year.
This is the equivalent of more than 500 million single-use carrier bags once it is offset by estimated increases in other forms of plastic bag, such as bags for life.
The net carbon saving is more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually.
All retailers are being urged to sign up to Scotland’s carrier bag commitment, an agreement to disclose information on the charge and donations made.
Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “It’s fantastic to hear carrier bag usage in Scotland has dropped so significantly since the 5p charge was introduced.
“As well as removing millions of bags from circulation, it’s also great that millions of pounds have been raised for good causes across the country.
“Before the charge Scotland consumed a staggering 800 million carrier bags every year, many of which ended up polluting our environment and threatening wildlife.
“As an additional benefit, less resource use also means fewer carbon emissions.”