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  • Writer's pictureZero Waste Alliance Ireland

Scotland carrier bag levy launched

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

For the first time, from today, a mandatory five-pence bag levy on carrier bags in Scotland is now in place. The new charge includes plastic, paper and biodegradable bags and applies to all retailers, from supermarkets to local stores and takeaways.

Back in May, MSPs courageously voted to bring in the new regulations in a bid to tackle Scotland’s growing litter problem. In fact the charge is a minimum and some outlets may charge more, with many retailers donating proceeds to good causes.

While we agree with the measure for plastic bags , it has also been imposed on single-use carriers made from eco-friendly materials. This is probably unnecessary as we want to encourage the substitution of eco-friendly materials for plastics.

Scotland follows Ireland, which pioneered the move on 4th March 2002 at the rate of 15 cent per bag.  Wales followed in  2011, followed by Northern Ireland last year. Now we expect the  800 million single-use bags that are given out by supermarkets every year in Scotland alone to dramatically decline.

Once the levy is in place it will invariably increase, as is the case in Ireland, which now has a 22c per bag charge. However funds collected are dedicated to environmental projects.

We are encouraged to see that over 160 retailers including M&S, McDonald’s and The Co-op Group have already registered for Zero Waste Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment, which they launched earlier this year.

Scotland should be  extremely proud that this landmark legislation is now in force to end the throwaway culture and cure our addiction to plastic carrier bags.

Zero Waste Ireland joins with the many Environmental groups  who have  also welcomed the new mandatory fees.

We know from the Irish experience that , charges for plastic bags have led to dramatic reductions in their use, as well as creating positive changes in consumer behavior and changing mindsets.

In Ireland , it had an immediate effect on consumer behavior with a decrease in plastic bag usage from an estimated 328 bags per capita to 21 bags per capita overnight. Let’s hope the Scots do even better and reach the current best performing level of Denmark with just 4 bags per capita usage.


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