Plastic Carrier Bags

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Rural Affairs and the Environment – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 13th November 2008.

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Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 13th November 2008

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it accepts evidence that a 90 per cent reduction in plastic carrier bags will result in 13,700 tonnes of additional waste per annum. (S3O-4816)

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is focused on reducing the unnecessary use of all carrier bags, not just plastic ones. At the First Minister's supermarket summit in September, retailers committed to working with the Scottish Government to reduce carrier bag usage by 50 per cent by spring 2009. We accept that if householders just switch from using plastic bags to paper bags, then there could be an increase in the amount of waste produced, given that paper bags generally weigh more. That is why we are working with retailers to support the reuse of all bags.

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

Given that 75 per cent of consumers reuse plastic carrier bags at least once, does the cabinet secretary not agree that a 50 per cent reduction in carrier bags will reduce waste by a negligible 4,000 tonnes? Would it not be a far more effective policy to increase existing opportunities to recycle plastics as opposed to any counterproductive and narrow focus on plastic carrier bags?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

We should congratulate consumers on reusing bags and, of course, we congratulate those towns in Scotland that are trying to become plastic-bag free. That is a sign that the general public and consumers are taking their environmental responsibilities very seriously indeed. By cutting down on the single use of bags, we help to address litter problems and reduce waste to landfill, as well as helping to change the attitudes of people in Scotland to their valuable resources. There are benefits to reducing the use of bags and there is much support in the chamber and throughout Scotland for continuing to head in the direction of reducing the single use of bags.