Plastic bag proposal announced at Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve

Saturday 14th September 2013

Reed bunting cpt Amy LewisReed bunting cpt Amy Lewis

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, took time away from the Liberal Democrat party conference in Glasgow to visit the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Cathkin Marsh Wildlife Reserve in order to announce that England will join the rest of the UK in requiring retailers to charge for plastic bags.

Over 750 million plastic bags are used in Scotland every year – equating to 200 per adult – and 98% end up in landfill.

It is an absolutely beautiful spot and I'm delighted to have been able to visit...It's a real credit to the very dedicated volunteers and project managers.

Under Scottish Government proposals, retailers in Scotland will be required to charge a minimum of 5p for a single-use bag from October 2014.  This is intended to dramatically reduce the use of single-use bags by the Scottish public.

Similar schemes have already shown possible results: when Wales introduced a scheme in October 2011 usage dropped by 76% and similarly in the Republic of Ireland, when the charge was introduced in 2002, usage was cut by 90% in a few months.

In England, where there is currently no charging system, there was nearly a 5% increase in bag use last year.  Plastic bags inevitably end up littering the environment which can have a devastating effect on any wildlife that eats them or gets trapped within them.

In our seas and oceans, the damage takes its toll on marine life, where plastic bags can be mistaken for jellyfish or other prey.  Marine litter, including plastic bags, kills globally at least a million seabirds and 100,000 animals including whales, dolphins, turtles and seals, each year.  When an animal's body has rotted the bag, which could take hundreds of years to degrade, is released back into the sea, to kill again.

On land, plastic bags also represent a hazard; animals can suffocate in them and when eaten the bag can remain in the gut causing a slow, painful death.

Speaking at Cathkin Marsh, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, said:

“Plastic carrier bags blight our towns and countryside.  They take hundreds of years to degrade and can kill animals.  At the same time, tax-payers are footing the bill to clear the mess up – they don’t get a choice.  This way is fairer for everyone. 

"It has proved successful in Wales and it is wonderful that both Scotland and England won't be far behind.  It's a testament to environmental campaigners and fantastic organisations like the Scottish Wildlife Trust, whose army of staff and volunteers do so much to keep our landscape clean, open and accessible, that we've been able to make this announcement.

“This is not a new problem. We’ve waited too long for action. That’s why I am drawing a line under the issue now.

“We will discuss with retailers how the money raised should be spent but I call on them to follow the lead of industry in Wales and donate the proceeds to charity.”

The habitat enhancement work that has been carried out at Cathkin Marsh is what makes it a magnet for a variety of breeding birds, butterflies and dragonflies

Mr Clegg also praised the Cathkin Marsh Nature Reserve:

"It is an absolutely beautiful spot and I'm delighted to have been able to visit.  You can really tell how much of a sanctuary it must be for wildlife, and also for the visitors who come to enjoy the peace and quiet.  It's a real credit to the very dedicated volunteers and project managers."

Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Simon Milne, said:

“We are delighted that Mr Clegg has taken time out of his busy schedule to make this announcement.  All Wildlife Trusts across the United Kingdom will welcome this new policy and the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Cathkin Marsh reserve is the ideal location to announce it.

“The levy should help significantly reduce the damage done from having so many plastic bags lingering in our terrestrial and marine environment for potentially hundreds of years.  Along with other environmental charities, we also hope that any money raised will be directed towards funding vital projects to protect wildlife and the environment.

“The habitat enhancement work that has been carried out at Cathkin Marsh is what makes it a magnet for a variety of breeding birds, butterflies and dragonflies. It also is an example of how monies raised from the Landfill Communities Fund have been able to offset at least some of the negative impacts of landfill for the benefit of wildlife and the local community.”

Head of Policy for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Dr Maggie Keegan, said:

“The Scottish Wildlife Trust believes that the plastic bag levy in Scotland could dramatically reduce the amount of single-use bags in Scotland going to landfill.

“Wildlife is unaware of the border between Scotland and England and the Scottish Wildlife Trust believes today’s announcement will lead to a positive change in consumer behaviour that will benefit wildlife throughout the United Kingdom.”

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