Six months ago we reported on the reduced plastic bag usage in Scotland after the single-use plastic bag charge had been introduced.

This is what we said:

‘Recycling plastic bags is a notoriously difficult and uneconomical process, which is why Scotland was delighted to welcome their own single-use plastic bag levy back in October 2014. Major supermarkets and retailers have reported reductions of 80-95% in their main stores.

The bag levy does not mean that bags are banned, it just means that customers will be charged 5p per bag, and are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags. In Scotland, the money collected in Tesco stores is donated to ‘Keep Scotland Beautiful’. This is great news for Scotland’s countryside, with the reduction in litter and the increase in funding allowing for a greater level of care and protection of nature.

Asda raised £145,000 in the first few months of Scotland’s plastic bag levy, a huge amount which is going to be carefully gifted to community projects and social enterprises who need some investment. £145,000 in 5p carrier bags equates to 2.9 million bags distributed in Scotland’s Asda stores.’


Six months later, and 10 months on from the introduction of the bag charge, WRAP has reported that 130 million plastic bags avoided usage thanks to the charge in the final quarter of 2014. To show how drastic a change this is, in the same period in 2013, Scots used 193.5m bags, and it had now dropped to 94.6m.

Change in mentality

What’s most interesting is that in the rest of the year, before the ban, bag usage had gone down by around 18 million on the previous year, but after the ban, dropped by 130 million! Reports suggest that people refuse to take a bag if they can carry and fit all of their shopping in their pockets. This is a positive mentality change and shows that education towards plastic wastage is working. It also means people shop in smaller amounts, buying less than they would during their shopping than before the ban.

Scottish Government Environment Secretary Richard Lockhead said “The single- use carrier bag charge has been a tremendous success, driving behaviour change to reduce litter across our beautiful country and also the amount of resources we, as a nation, consume... I’m pleased that so many consumers are now in the habit of reusing bags and the level of support from the Scottish public is extremely heartening.”

Bag usage in England went up by 240 million in 2014. The plastic bag charge in England takes effect on October 1st 2015. In Wales, the second year of their plastic bag charge proved less successful than the first, with an increase of around 10m, from 70m to 80m. Northern Ireland continues to be very successful, with a plastic bag usage of just 30m.