Scotland increases plastic bag charge

Plastic bag sales down 86% since 5p charge
A person leaves with their goods in reusable plastic carrier bags after shopping at a branch of Asda in south London on January 10, 2018. (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The minimum price of a single use plastic carrier bag is set to increase from 5p to 10p from 1 April, the Scottish Government said.

The Scottish Parliament will be asked to approve the measure to help tackle plastic waste.

The charge will increase to 10p also in England from April, when it will be extended to all retailers. All businesses in Scotland, and Wales, were already required to charge.

“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,” commented the Scottish Environment and Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

First introduced in Scotland in October 2014, the number of bags issued annually dropped by 80 per cent within a year as a result.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed the announcement, which follows a public consultation that saw an overwhelming number of respondents (80%) agreeing to the increase.

“Charging for single-use carrier bags is a popular measure with local shops, as it works to reduce the use of single-bags and also allows retailers to raise more money for local and environmental causes,” commented James Lowman, ACS chief executive.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to increase the charge for single-use carrier bags in Scotland and will work with members as well as the wider convenience retail sector ahead of the scheduled implementation date at the beginning of April.”

The increase in the single use carrier bag charge will not result in a cost increase for retailers. The main impacts on retailers are the administrative costs of increasing the charge and, for retailers with more than 10 employees, the keeping of records on the number of bags sold with a requirement of keeping these records for a minimum of five years.

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.