Scottish Government
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Carrier bag campaign

Remember to re-use your carrier bags: that's the simple message behind a new campaign from the Scottish Government and Scottish retailers.

With Scotland using one billion carrier bags a year and Scottish local authorities spending £385 million a year dealing with waste, the campaign aims to help stores halve the amount of bags they hand out.

Research shows 92 per cent of people think reusing carrier bags is good for the environment but that 59 per cent forget their reusable bags and have to take new ones at the checkout.

Based on the premise that an elephant never forgets, the campaign will run on TV and radio as well as in supermarkets and shops across the country.

Ten major retailers and almost 500 independent shops are on board, potentially reaching millions of consumers, making this the biggest high street campaign ever undertaken by the Scottish Government.

Launching the campaign at Scotmid's store in Leith, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

"Millions of shoppers taking a small step can lead to a big change. The beauty of this campaign is that everyone who shops - literally all of Scotland - can be engaged in sustainable behaviour.

"Discarded carrier bags are a blight on our landscape and when you consider that our natural environment is worth over £17 billion a year and supports around 240,000 jobs, it's clear that action to reduce bag use is not only good for the planet but good for the economy too.

"There is clearly a collective desire on the part of the public and retailers to reduce carrier bag numbers. By taking the simple action of remembering to bring a carrier bag with you every single person in Scotland can play a role.

"Almost everyone in Scotland goes to the shops on a regular basis and this campaign will help people remember and, in turn, help retailers reach the target we have set them - a 50 per cent reduction in bags dished out to customers.

"The consumer will also be the ultimate beneficiary of a reduction in bag use through this campaign, with local authority waste management costs being reduced.

"Reusing bags is one of the simplest steps people can take towards leading greener lifestyles. Everyone is able to play their part and I hope to see Scots up and down the country embracing this campaign.

"Taking a small step like reusing a carrier bag will encourage people to make other changes to their behaviours and ensure that collectively we are making a big difference locally, nationally and globally."

John Drummond, Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocer's Federation, said:

"We are very pleased to be working with the Scottish Government on this initiative to reduce the number of carrier bags handed out to customers.

"It's often very difficult for convenience stores because consumers regularly make unplanned visits and therefore don't always have their re-usable bags with them. However, retailers are making determined efforts to encourage customers to change their habits, to use durable bags for sustained use on an on-going basis."

Fiona Moriarty, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:

"Working with their customers, retailers have already delivered some spectacular reductions in the numbers of new bags handed out - down by a quarter in just two years. They are now going further, faster with a commitment to a 50 per cent reduction by June this year.

"Ideas including taking bags off display and reducing the amount of new plastic in bags are part of that but so is encouraging customers to change their behaviour.

"That's why stores are offering durable carrier bags for life, tips and incentives and working with the Government to get more customers re-using bags.

"This campaign is a positive example of the Scottish Government and retail businesses working together to achieve the environmental gains we all want."

COSLA spokesperson on Sustainable Development, Alison Hay, added:

"Single use plastic bags are a luxury that we can't inflict on the environment. The campaign, to remind us to refuse new bags and to reuse old ones, will play an important part in reducing waste in Scotland."

"It is important that people appreciate that even small things like remembering to bring our used bags to shops will help reduce the damage we cause."

UK figures released by WRAP on February 26 showed that carrier bag use had fallen by 26 per cent in 2008 when compared with 2006. At the First Minister's supermarket summit on September 24 last year, leading retailers in Scotland committed to reducing carrier bag use by 50 per cent by spring this year (just before Christmas this agreement was extended to all of the UK). Seven major retailers have committed to the target: Asda, Co-operative group, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose.

The Climate Change Bill, which was introduced on December 4 last year, includes a provision that would allow Scottish Ministers to make legislation requiring retailers to charge for bags.

Retailers have made clear, and Government accepted, that our work should be focussed on carrier bags generally and not just on plastic bags. Whilst plastic bags are worse in terms of litter, paper bags are worse for the environment as they take more resources to produce and transport.

The Scottish Government has set zero waste targets:

  • By 2010, 40 per cent of municipal waste should be recycled or composted
  • By 2025, 70 per cent of municipal waste should be recycled or composted, a maximum of five per cent should be sent to landfill and a maximum of 25 per cent of waste should be used for energy

A recent report by Scottish Natural Heritage 'Valuing Our Environment' showed that output from activities which depend on the natural environment is estimated at £17.2 billion (11 per cent of total Scottish output) and supports 242,000 jobs (14 per cent of all full-time jobs in Scotland).

The £466,000 campaign forms part of voluntary measures to reduce carrier bag use. Ten major retailers are taking part in the campaign: Asda, B and Q, Jessops, Morrisons, Next, Primark, Somerfield, Tesco, Waitrose and WH Smith. In addition around 490 independent shops are involved through the Scottish Grocer's Federation.

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