Have you spotted posters like this one popping up in shops? The adorable elephant is named Ernie, and he’s helping spread the word about the single use carrier bag charge coming into force in Scotland from 20th October.
This means that no matter whether you’re shopping for groceries, clothes, books, toiletries, or any other item, if you want a bag to put them in you will be charged 5p.
Why are we being charged?
Scotland uses 750,000,000 carrier bags every year – more per person than anywhere else in the UK. This legislation has been introduced in Scotland in an attempt to:
– reduce litter
– protect wildlife
– save the natural resources that are used to make/distribute bags
– encourage people to reuse their bags
– help tackle climate change
The legislation has already been introduced in Wales, and after just one year of the law being in place, the use of new plastic bags decreased by 75%.
Where does the 5p go?
The proceeds from the 5p charge will go to environmental charities and other environmental initiatives.
Exemptions from the charge
There are some exceptions to the 5p charge. Bags that will not incur a charge include:
– very small paper and plastic bags used for e.g. loose fruit, greetings cards, pick n mix sweets
– bags for carrying uncooked meat, poultry, or fish
– bags for unpackaged exempted items e.g. unpackaged food or drink for human or animal consumption, prescription medicines, unpackaged knives or blades, or items that could be contaminated by soil
– specialist bags e.g. courier bags, or bags for carrying live fish
– bags used to carry items purchased on board vehicles, or in duty free
How to avoid the 5p charge
It’s simple – take a re-usable bag with you every time you shop!
You can reuse bags you have previously been charged 5p for, although they may wear out after some time. Supermarket “Bags for Life” last a bit longer, and most supermarkets replace them free of charge when worn out.
Cotton tote bags are more expensive than plastic “Bags for Life”, but will last longer and are more convenient to carry around than jute or woven bags. We’d recommend you go for Fairtrade cotton if available, or bags made from organic cotton. There are loads of cool designs to choose from, they fold up small enough to pop in your bag or pocket, and will help you avoid that 5p charge.
For more information on the carrier bag charges, check out Carrier Bag Charge Scotland’s FAQs.