Bags of opportunity continues, but more action needed
We acknowledge that the charge, introduced on 20 October 2014, and the related publicity around it, has had a significant effect on the behaviour of many shoppers across the country. It has raised awareness of the issues, promoted individual responsibility and reduced consumption and waste as reported by the big retailers.
The use of bags of all shapes and sizes has environmental consequences, and a range of impacts that are detrimental to attempts to improve local environmental quality. Fewer bags is great news for the environment.
We know that following the introduction of the charge a decrease in littered single use bags has been recorded in some locations, for example the Marine Conservation Society’s data for beach litter, but our surveys indicate that the charge has not led to fewer bags littering other locations – such as our roadsides - 13% (in 2016/17) were blighted by the light weight plastics and this has not significantly changed since before the charge was introduced. And, we also know that 33% of people in Scotland highlighted single use plastic bags as one of the most noticeable items of roadside litter. (YouGov)
With each reusable bag that is used, we have seen a commitment from individuals to live a bit more sustainably. But, we believe a charge on single use items can only leverage behaviour change to a certain level, and we may have plateaued, with those who will switch to reusable bags because of a charge having done so. There is an opportunity for further reduction.
We know, in Scotland, that on average 40% of single use carrier bags that are littered are unbranded. We have concerns that small retailers and corner shops – the main distributors of unbranded bags – are not implementing the charges, and would urge them to sign up to the Carrier Bag Commitment. If the current regulations were adopted by all retailers who have the obligation to charge we may see further reductions in the use of single use carrier bags, and an increase in donations to good environmental causes.
Bag charge donations have helped us make a difference locally and nationally to support communities to improve the environmental quality of the places they care about. We have received bag charge donations from major international retailers, from small independent boutiques, and local fish & chip shops. Across the country we have been able to help others to improve the quality of our environment. Donations have directly funded our environmental community and education projects.
There is now an opportunity for us all to improve the support given to small retailers to ensure that their customers’ 5p charge is donated to improve the quality of the environment. We want it to be the norm in Scotland for customers to take their own bags to the shop, and when they have to pay the charge, to question where their 5p is being donated.
So, next time you hand over 5p for a bag ask yourself, where does your bag charge go? Then ask your retailer. Together we can make a difference.
Find out more about who we work with and the opportunities created through bag charge donations to us over the past three years.
19 October 2017