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Scotland's shoppers embrace new bag habit

The number of plastic bags handed out across shops in Scotland has fallen by 80% since a 5p charge was introduced a year ago.

The significant reduction is equivalent to around 650 million fewer bags, and the charge has produced a fund £6.7m for good causes.

Before the change, Scots used more than 800 million new single-use carrier bags every year, more per head than anywhere else in the UK.

The announcement follows the introduction of the 5p charge in England at the start of October for businesses with more than 250 employees. The National Federation of Newsagents had asked for the charge to be extended to smaller retailers.

Environment secretary Richard Lochhead congratulated Scotland’s people for embracing the policy, and said it showed the country was serious about tackling litter, reducing waste and creating a cleaner, greener environment.

“It is 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 of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “It is evident that 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.”

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

Full year data is not yet available and the Scottish Government, which issued the information, said it should be viewed as an “interim conclusion based on best available evidence”. However, it added that “significant divergence” was not expected.

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