Scottish Parliament has just passed a new law which means a five pence charge will be levied on all single-use carrier bags. This includes our recycled paper bags, and so all Lush shops in Scotland will be charging you 5p per bag, and donating the proceeds to Reforesting Scotland.
This new tax will be in place from 20th October, and it’s another step in the right direction for a greener Britain. Northern Ireland and Wales already have levies in place, it’s just England that’s slow to follow. In 2013 Lush demonstrated alongside Surfers Against Sewage outside the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, urging parliament to ‘Break The Bag Habit’. Plastic carrier bags are a massive waste of resources, not to mention that in 2012, supermarkets alone gave out over 8 billion single-use bags in the UK, which is a whopping 120 bags per person – the majority of which were plastic. Plastic carrier bags don't biodegrade, and when they aren’t properly disposed of, can be extremely environmentally damaging. The levy on bags encourages customers to opt out of using single-use bags, instead choosing to carry their own ‘for life’ bags, or not even using one at all. Just one person using one reusable bag will save hundreds of plastic bags from landfill in a year.
Although at Lush, we only use recycled and recycleable paper bags, we are still required by law to implement the charge in Wales, Northern Ireland and now Scotland. We will be donating the Scottish tax proceeds to a worthy cause; Reforesting Scotland, a group dedicated to promoting ecological and sociological change in Scotland, implementing change through projects that aim to regenerate Scotland’s land and forests. You can read more about what they do here.
In Wales we are donating the proceeds of the carrier bag levy to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, where they demonstrate practical solutions for sustainability. In Northern Ireland, all proceeds from the bag levy go towards a government scheme, and the money is then allocated to various local projects promoting environmental sustainability.
Whilst some retailers in England have implemented a charge for carrier bags, it is not yet law. The aim is for England to introduce the charge in 2015.