650 million single-use carrier bags. That’s the number it would take to cover the entire surface of Loch Ness twice – and you would still have 50 million to spare.
It also happens to be the (completely phenomenal) number that Scottish retailers are reporting carrier bag usage to have fallen by since the 5p bag charge was introduced on 20 October 2014, exactly a year ago today.
Previous statistics showed that shoppers in Scotland used more than 800 million new single-use carrier bags every single year – more per head than anywhere else in the UK. Shockingly, more than 7.4 million of these were being collected from Scottish beaches, streets and public spaces by litter collectors each year.
In October 2014, we worked with the Scottish Government to introduce the 5p charge to shoppers across Scotland in a bid to help tackle waste and help clean up Scotland’s environment. Since then, we’ve helped both the Government and Zero Waste Scotland raise awareness of the 5p charge amongst shoppers and to encourage retailers to sign up to Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment and pledge to record figures on bag usage and donate the proceeds to good causes.
During this time we produced hundreds of branded tote bags, successfully stuffed a giant elephant prop in the back of a much too small van, scrambled around on the floor of more than one shopping centre, and held multiple photocalls featuring everyone from Scotland’s Environment Secretary to helicopter pilots loaded with armfuls of reusable bags. We’ve come out smiling though, because the results have been more incredible than we could ever have hoped.
In just one year, usage has been cut by 80%, and signatories to the Carrier Bag Commitment have reported a staggering sum of nearly £7 million raised for good causes. Perhaps even more rewardingly though, the 650 million bags saved this year show that it’s now becoming second nature to shoppers to reuse their carrier bags.
So next time you’re out shopping remember to BYOB: bring your own bags!