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Single-use carrier bag charge comes into effect in Scotland

A new law obliging retailers in Scotland to charge customers for single-use carrier bags came into effect today (October 20).

Intended to tackle the “throwaway culture” in Scotland, the law, passed by the Scottish Parliament in May, requires all retailers to charge customers a minimum of 5p per single-use plastic or paper bag given to customers.

Retailers employing 10 or more staff are required to monitor and record all information relating to the number of carrier bags they give out and charge for and the total amount raised by these charges. They could face punitive action by local authorities for failing to do so.

There are no rules on how they must spend the revenue raised by the charge, but shop owners are being encouraged to support sustainable initiatives and sign up to the ‘Carrier Bag Commitment’, which outlines a number of environmental causes they can donate to.

Scottish consumers are estimated to use some 800 million plastic carrier bags per year, with supermarkets across the UK estimated to give out some 8 billion bags.

Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Our carrier bag addiction is symptomatic of our throwaway culture and has serious implications for the environment. Huge numbers of these bags end up as litter, blighting our communities and clogging up our seas and natural habitats, affecting many sorts of wildlife and marine species in particular.”

A charge for carrier bags was first introduced in Wales in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland where the local law came into effect last year. A charge is due to begin in England in a year’s time.

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