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Bags of success

Scotland’s single use carrier bag usage drops by 650 million since charge was introduced.

Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead yesterday (Tuesday 20 October) announced that retailers across Scotland have witnessed a staggering reduction in the number of single use carrier bags handed out since the 5p charge came into effect 12 months ago.

Data from major grocery retailers indicate a reduction in bag use of around 80 per cent since 20 October 2014 – equivalent to at least 650 million fewer bags being handed out annually compared to ‘business as usual’ in previous years – with funds of around £6.7 million being donated to good causes as a result of the charge.

Boots, one of Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment signatories, has reported an estimated 80 per cent reduction in carrier bag use in Scotland. The Cabinet Secretary was at its store in Aberdeen to speak to shoppers about their experiences of the change so far. He said:

“The 5p charge has been a major success with the number of single use bags down by a staggering 650 million, and with nearly £7m raised for good causes.

“Previously statistics showed that people in Scotland used more than 800 million new single-use carrier bags every single year – more per head than anywhere else in the UK.

“I thank Scotland for embracing this policy and showing we’re serious about tackling litter, reducing waste and creating a cleaner, greener environment for everyone to enjoy.

“It’s now becoming second nature to shoppers to reuse their carrier bags and hopefully to think more about our impact on the environment. I am confident that Scotland is going to go from strength to strength in its bid to tidy up our streets and beaches, where litter has been a highly visible problem in the past.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“With retailers in Scotland reporting a reduction of 80% in the use of single use carrier bags, it’s evident that Scottish shoppers have embraced a new shopping habit. It’s not always easy to change our habits, but Scotland is proving it has this in the bag.

“Many organisations have already agreed to donate money raised by the 5p charge to good causes, by signing up to Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment. Other retailers across the country are now being urged to follow suit.”

Nationwide retailers that signed up to Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment – an agreement to disclose information on the charge, and donations made, to a central publicly available portal – are reporting that various charities up and down the country have also benefited from funds raised by the charge, with at least £6.7 million being donated to good causes.

Morrisons, the Co-operative and Waitrose have indicated a reduction of 80 per cent, with Asda reporting a drop of 90 per cent, while Sainsburys have witnessed 100 per cent reduction of single use carrier bags as they no longer offer them to shoppers.

Stephen Watkins, head of customer experience North & East Scotland at Boots UK, added:

“We want to help our customers care for the environment while making a difference in their local communities. We’ve seen a really positive effect in our stores in Scotland since the introduction of the charge in 2014, with an estimated reduction of around 80 per cent in carrier bag usage. We’ve also been able to offer significant support to Macmillan Cancer Support and the important work that they do for those affected by cancer in Scotland.

“From 5 October 2015 we are donating the net proceeds of the sale of these bags to BBC Children In Need. Together with our customers we can help make a difference to our environment and support community projects across Scotland the rest of the UK.”

Notes To Editors


The reduction of 650 million means that the net material saving is more than 4,000 tonnes annually (equivalent to more than 500 million single use carrier bags) and the net carbon saving is more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. This accounts for total reductions offset by estimated increases in other forms of plastic bag – for example reusable bags for life and small bin liners.

Full year data is not yet available, these results should be seen as an interim conclusion based on best available evidence, but significant divergence is not expected.

Retailers and organisations not yet signed up to the Carrier Bag Commitment can do so by visiting, with full details available at

Shoppers can access further information about the single-use carrier bag charge by visiting

Zero Waste Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government to support the delivery of its Zero Waste Plan and other low carbon and resource efficiency policy priorities.

ZWS is helping Scotland to become more efficient in its use of resources. As a facilitator and enabler of change it helps to reduce waste, increase energy efficiency and promote responsible water use – all as part of a journey towards a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

Quotes from retailers

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Morrisons Scottish Affairs Advisor, said:

"The carrier bag charge has had a significant effect. Over the last year the amount of carrier bags our customers have used has fallen by around 80%, meaning millions fewer bags are being used. The charge has generated around £700,000, which has gone to the Morrisons Foundation to donate to charities making a difference to people’s lives across Scotland.”

Kevin McBride, VP Scotland at Asda, said:

"Asda customers have reduced their single-use carrier bag usage by more than 90 per cent since the introduction of the charge. We want to ensure that this policy has long-term social - as well as environmental - benefits, which is why we have chosen to invest the proceeds of more than £700,000 in local good causes and innovative social enterprises the length and breadth of Scotland."

John McNeill, Divisional Managing Director for The Co-operative Food in Scotland, said:

“The Co-op Local Fund is distributing more than £750,000 raised through the requirement to charge for single-use carriers issued in our stores in Scotland, and we envisage that approaching 1,000 community groups, projects and good causes will benefit through grants of between £200 - £2,500. The money raised will enable organisations across Scotland to make a difference in their community - together, we will reduce, reuse, recycle, and reinvest in our communities.

“The Co-operative is a community retailer with a strong heritage and commitment to the environment and to supporting its local communities. The Co-op shares the aspiration of reducing the number of single-use carrier bags in use. It is also encouraging shoppers to further reduce their reliance on single-use carriers by donating profits from its reusable bags to good causes too."


Scottish Government – Claire Stanley : 0131 244 2614 / 07580 485951

Zero Waste Scotland – Claire Munro: 01786 239 791 / 07702 976594

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