Information for shoppers

The Scottish Government introduced a 5p charge for all single use carrier bags on 20 October 2014 to reduce the number of carrier bags being used. The introduction follows the successful implementation of similar legislation in Wales and Northern Ireland.  Legislation was introduced in England in 2015.

What is a single use carrier bag?

A single use carrier bag is provided by a retailer to help you take purchases away from the shop and can be made from a variety of materials including plastic, paper, natural starch or plant based material (other than cotton, flax, hemp, jute or sisal).  They are not intended for multiple reuse. The bag charge also applies to online shopping from Scottish retailers.


What is the problem with single use carrier bags?

The Scottish Government believes that introducing a 5p charge for single use carrier bags will significantly reduce the number of carrier bags used annually in Scotland and tackle the litter that blights our landscape and communities. Due to their light weight and mobility, single use carrier bags often end up in water courses, in our marine environment and along roadsides which are difficult to clean and where they can be particularly damaging. More information on why the bag charge was introduced can be found on the Zero Waste Scotland Website.


What does this mean for you?

The introduction of the bag charge means that you pay 5p for every new single use carrier bag you use when purchasing goods from a retailer in Scotland, directly or online.  The easiest way to avoid the charge and help the environment is to take reusable bags with you when shopping.


What retailers are included?

All retailers regardless of type or size are required to charge for single use carrier bags.


What is exempt from the charge?

There are a limited number of exemptions from the bag charge. Further details can be found on the Zero Waste Scotland Website.


What will happen to my 5p?

The net proceeds of the bag charge belong to the retailer. The Scottish Government is keen to see the money generated by the bag charge distributed by retailers to charitable good causes, particularly those focused on tackling litter and its environmental impacts.


If you are a shopper, you should ask the retailer where their proceeds of the bag charge are going. Ask them if they have chosen a charity and if not you could suggest us to them!


How will I know how my money has been spent?

Retailers are encouraged to sign up to Scotland's Carrier Bag Commitment which ensures that they donate the bag charges they collect to good causes, including environmental causes and that they report these details annually.


We will continue to publicise any opportunities that are created for communities as a result of retailers donating us any Scotland's bag charge.

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