Plastic bag charge: why the price of carrier bags will rise in Scotland - and how much they will cost

The price of a plastic bag is set to double from April

The price of plastic carrier bags is set to rise in Scotland from 1 April 2021.

People who buy a bag at the checkout of supermarkets will be charged more from then, as the Scottish Government brings in the new cost to encourage shoppers to be more sustainable.

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Plastic bags are increasingly being recycled in the country, but the majority still end up in landfill, according to Zero Waste Scotland.

The minimum cost of carrier bags in Scotland will double from April (Shutterstock)
The minimum cost of carrier bags in Scotland will double from April (Shutterstock)

Here’s everything you need to know about the move - and how much plastic bags will cost from April.

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How much will plastic bags cost in April?

From the beginning of April, the minimum cost of carrier bags in Scotland will double, from 5p to 10p.

But due to coronavirus, the government is looking at creating an exemption on the charge for certain deliveries and collections, like they did last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

Why the increase in price?

The government made the move to put shoppers off using single-use plastic bags, which can be incredibly detrimental to the environment.

It hopes that the double price will encourage people to think about buying a plastic bag and instead turning to reusable options - like tote bags or bags for life.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who announced the move, said: “Thanks to the people of Scotland, the introduction of the charge has been successful in reducing the amount of single-use carrier bags in circulation.

“It has also made us think about the small steps we can all take to help the environment.

“While the five pence bag charge was suitable when it was first introduced, it is important that pricing is updated to ensure that the charge continues to be a factor in making people think twice about using a single-use carrier bag.

“The Scottish Government is committed to building back a greener society so by further reducing our reliance on single-use items, we are taking positive steps to limit our impact on the climate and the environment.”

When was the 5p charge introduced?

Shoppers were first charged 5p for a plastic bag in shops back in 2014, and the move seemed to discourage people from buying them - the next year, plastic bags usage dropped by 80 per cent.

Before the charge was introduced, 800 million single use carrier bags were issued annually in Scotland.

In 2016, the Marine Conservation Society found that the number of the bags found on Scottish beaches dropped by 40 percent two years in a row.

A further drop of 42 percent was recorded between 2018 and 2019.

Where does the charge go?

The Scottish Government encourages retailers to donate the proceeds from the plastic bag charge to good causes in Scotland - particularly environmental good causes.

However, donating the money raised is only guidance and not compulsory.

Retailers are able to sign up to the Carrier Bag Commitment, which means they pledge to donate the proceeds to good causes and publish information on the number of bags sold and the amount of money donated.

How can I recycle a plastic bag?

There are ways you can recycle a plastic bag if you do need to buy one to ensure it does not end up in landfill.

Some councils in Scotland are starting to collect bags as part of household recycling schemes, so check if this is something your local council offers.

Many large supermarkets also have facilities for recycling plastic bags, along with other plastic films that can’t go in your blue bin - these collection points are usually found near the main entrance.

Look for the message “recycle with carrier bags at larger stores” on the label of bags and wrapping.