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October 28, 2003 4:08 PM

Mike Pringle MSPEdinburgh South MSP Mike Pringle has unveiled a proposal to lodge a Members Bill in the Scottish Parliament to introduce a levy on disposable plastic bags. The plan would mean that plastic bag use would be greatly reduced, with major benefits for the environment.

Launching his proposals at the Scottish Parliament today, Mr Pringle said:

"The levy on plastic bags in the Republic of Ireland has been a phenomenal success. 1.2 billion plastic shopping bags were previously handed out in shops and this has now been reduced by about 90%. Up to 20 billion bags are used in the UK every year. Scotland can now take the lead in tackling this major problem.

"This is not a money making scheme. It aims to alter people's behaviour to help protect the environment and the revenue from a Scottish levy would go towards improving recycling and reducing litter.

"All of us receive plastic bags routinely handed over in supermarkets and shops which we don't really need and which end up in the bin the second we're home.

"Plastic bags litter the environment, pollute our seas and cause deaths of turtles, birds and other animals as a result. It takes them anything from 30 to 100 years to decompose in landfill sites.

"This measure is good for shops as it can reduce the cost of bags for them, it's good for consumers who pay indirectly for the cost of landfilling and clearing up the waste, it's good for local authorities who will have funds to pay for environmental improvements and it is good for the environment.

"This proposal has already received the support of other Liberal Democrat MSPs and I look forward to consulting with local authorities and businesses about how we can implement this environmentally and business friendly measure."


Durham County Council have estimated that the cost in landfill tax is around £20,000 in that county alone. The number of plastic shopping bags entering the waste cycle weighs almost 650 tonnes. Given the population of the County is around 500,000, it could be extrapolated that the cost for Scotland is around £200,000.

The US annual plastic bag consumption alone requires an estimated 12 million barrels of oil, enough to fill a Volkswagen Golf's tank 15 million times.