Scotland and the Carrier Bag Charge

Scottish Carrier Bag Charge

The carrier bag charge in Scotland has achieved an astounding usage fall. If the trend continues, it could put an end to the carrier bag supremacy.


Carrier bags are everywhere. Twelve years ago, (in 2003), the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimated a worldwide consumption of between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags worldwide, (per year), with less than 1% being recycled. The inherent dangers are many, as each one of those can take about a thousand years to decompose, and usually ends up in landfills or find their way into the sea.

Europe has become very concerned with the numbers through the last 10 years. Just in the UK, supermarkets are estimated to give about 17 and a half billion bags per year ─ yet only one in each 200 is actually recycled. But there are changes being made: Scotland recently charged a levy on carrier bags, (last quarter of 2014), and the usage fall is already about 147 million in seven big retailers, (according to WRAP).

Richard Lochhead, Scottish environment secretary, proudly said that Scotland was on track to a reduction of 80%. He also pointed out that:

[quote style=”boxed”]“These astounding figures – a reduction of 147 million – are yet another indication that the single use carrier bag charge has been a tremendous success, driving behaviour change to reduce litter across our beautiful country and also the amount of (sic) resources we, as a nation, consume.”[/quote]

Both he and Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, registered a significant change in customer’s habits during the last year. Re-usable bags are being adopted in Scotland much faster than expected, but that is not to say that this may be an isolated or irreplicable model: Ireland already made this shift 13 years ago, (in 2002), and has by now reduced the carrier bag usage in a 90%. Denmark did it a year later, and now has Europe’s lowest use.

Scottish Carrier Bag Charge

Not only is the Scottish initiative responsible and sustainable, but also humanitarian, with various donations being made from those who sign Zero Waste Scotland’s Commitment. The Marine Conservation Society also applauded the Scottish move and complimented it for being “a major step forward in tackling a problem that causes so much harm to marine wildlife”.

Now, it’s on the rest of Europe to step up and follow along.


Source, (photos):




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