Marine eco-systems will benefit from less plastic bags, says conservation groups
Marine wildlife will be major beneficiaries of Scotland’s carrier bag charging regime, a conservation group has said.
The 5p levy could see 750 million less being used every year – that means less will find their way into the environment.
Plastic carrier bags cause havoc in marine ecosystems where they are routinely injested by sea animals, including huge filter-feeding whales.
Biopsies on dead cetaceans washed ashore routinely find them in the creatures’ stomachs.
They have also been found in turtles and ocean-going bird species such as albatrosses.
Plastic bags are just one symbol of our throwaway society and charging for their use is an important step in changing people’s behaviour
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says today’s introduction of a 5p charge for Scottish shoppers is a major step forward in tackling a problem that causes so much harm to marine wildlife.
It also highlights the lack of action on the part of Westminster, where the government seems intent on watering down its commitment to a charge – due some time after the next election.
Scotland is following in the footsteps of highly successful charges in Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Welsh levy reduced the consumption of single-use carrier bags by up to 80% in its first year.
Dr Laura Foster, MCS Pollution Programme Manager, said: “We look forward to seeing the results in Scotland following the great example that has been set in Wales and in Northern Ireland. A 5p charge on all single-use carrier bags, regardless of the material they are made from is a really encouraging step forward and millions of bags will now not end up in Scottish waters thanks to this decision by Holyrood.”
MCS says the implementation of the charge will reduce harmful litter on our beaches and in our seas, and will prevent many wildlife entanglements and choking deaths.
“We have strong evidence that turtles and other sea creatures mistake plastic bags for food like jellyfish. They eat them and then die a painful death from choking or stomach blockages. Gulls are regularly seen eating bags looking for the food they once carried, and many other animals are known to consume plastic bags accidentally.”
MCS hopes retailers will donate the charge to environmental organisations that, for many years, have been spending time and money campaigning for a ban on bags and, more importantly, clearing them up from the natural environment.
Emma Cunningham, MCS Pollution Campaigns Officer, says “It’s truly unbelievable that England is being left behind in this matter. Despite successful and popular actions from all the devolved administrations – the latest from Scotland – which we applaud, it looks like the English charge will not follow the successful systems in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland but instead will have caveats for the charge depending on the size of the shop and the type of material – plus of course we still don’t have a date when it will be introduced.”
The move was also welcomed by Friends of the Earth Scotland. Dr Richard Dixon said: "It is vital that our attitudes towards using and throwing away valuable resources improve if we are to reduce our impact on the environment and wildlife.
"Plastic bags are just one symbol of our throwaway society and charging for their use is an important step in changing people’s behaviour.
"If the Scottish public don’t respond positively to this then we should examine other options including increasing the charge per bag or phasing out the sale of single-use plastic bags."