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Millions of pounds for charities following carrier bag charge

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Retailers sign up to donate 5p bag charges to charities

Scotlands' charities are set to benefit from a windfall worth millions after a mandatory 5p charge for carrier bags became law today (Monday).

Despite the charge shoppers are still expected to use around 160 million bags which would see retailers raise a staggering £8 million, most of which is likely to be donated to good causes.

Leading the way, Zero Waste Scotland has signed up over 160 retailers, including Marks and Spencer and The Co-op, to its carrier bag commitment programme which will see them donate all proceeds from the sale of carrier-bags to good causes.

A number of other local and national businesses have declared they too will donate their proceeds, including supermarket giant Tesco which says its partner Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) could benefit from as much as £1m in the first year.

Zero Waste Scotland director Iain Gulland said: “We’re delighted so many have already registered for our carrier bag commitment, agreeing to donate proceeds from bag sales to good causes, and we look forward to many more coming on board.

We have always been clear that the bag charge can be a major stimulus for improvement in local environmental quality in Scotland

“The carrier bag charge is an extremely positive step to cut the number of bags in circulation and prevent them ending up as litter, as well as encouraging re-use habits among shoppers.”

Scotland currently uses around 800 million carrier bags and it is hoped the introduction of the charge will result in that figure falling by around 80% – as it has done in Northern Ireland and Wales where similar charges have already been introduced.

Many environmental campaigners, like KSB, have signed up to receive the profits from local and national retailers but are also enthusiastic about the direct impact on the environment.

KSB chief executive Derek Robertson said the introduction of the charge will be “transformational” to the environment.

“We have always been clear that the bag charge can be a major stimulus for improvement in local environmental quality in Scotland,” Robertson said.

“Reducing potential litter and eliminating plastic waste are key benefits that everyone should welcome.

“Our work with Tesco will make the best use possible of the money they collect from the bag charge. We’ve delivered significant environmental improvements before, and these bag charge proceeds will allow us to do more, making Scotland cleaner, greener and more sustainable. "

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said Scotland should now strive to be more like Danish people who only use on average four plastic bags per person per year.

He added: “According to the UN, over a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals are killed every year by the plastic littering our oceans.

“Single use carrier bags are symbolic of our wasteful attitude to resource use which must be addressed if Scotland's vision of a zero waste future is to be realised.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said it is vital attitudes change towards using and throwing away valuable resources if we are to reduce our impact on the environment and wildlife.

He said: "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."