Scotland Passes Restictions On Plastic Bags, Sparing Their Landfills Over 650 Million Bags Per Year

Plastic, a material synthetically or semi-synthetically made from petrochemicals (oil), has been incorporated into every part of modern living, from bottling (soda bottles, gallon bottles, etc.), music and video storage (compact discs), to everyday appliances and tools (Tupperware, small appliances, etc.). However, the most common use of plastic is for bags. Almost 100 percent of the time, they are used as a means to carry purchased products, ranging from groceries to restaurant food.

Unfortunately, such a high dependence on plastic equates to it being a huge waste. Over the decades, it has become one of the biggest pollutants of our planet. As a matter of fact, studies claim that the majority of 80 percent of the ocean’s pollutants originating from land are plastic.

As a result, many people — especially those in the green community — are doing their part to counter the problem plastic pollution causes. The latest move that got the green community’s attention is quite bold, as the entire country of Scotland has restricted the use of plastic bags. Such a move would be considered quite strict, but the aftermath was more than favorable as their landfills were spared over 650 million bags per year.

About one year ago, Scotland incorporated a five-pence charge per plastic bag use. This was usually carried out in places like grocery stores, where plastic bags are normally used on a daily basis. As a result of the movement, figures are now showing a usage cut of about 80 percent, as reported by the Guardian. That equates to landfills being more than 650 million bags short from previous years.

For the people who were willing to pay the five pence for plastic bags (which are now known as single-use carrier bags), they paid a collected total of £6.7 million over the past year, in which all the money went to good causes.

Also on the one-year anniversary of the five-pence charge, businesses have released their estimated numbers on plastic bag reduction too. Morrisons, the Co-operative, Waitrose, and Boots have reported an estimated 80 percent reduction in single-use carrier bag usage. Asda reported a 90 percent reduction. Sainsbury’s was the champion this year with a 100 percent reduction simply because they don’t provide the five-pence per single-use carrier bags in their stores.

Sainsbury’s is the only grocery store to see a 100 percent reduction in single-use carrier bags over the past year in Scotland because they no longer provide such a service [Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Matthew Lloyd/getty Images for Sainsbury’s]

Summarized, Scotland has embraced the new regulations on plastic bags, making the country’s plan to cut back on plastic pollution a success with a reduction of 4,000 tons of plastic waste and 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide net carbon. Scotland’s Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead, provided a statement expressing his gratitude once results of plastic regulations were made known.

“I thank Scotland for embracing this policy and showing we’re serious about tackling litter, reducing waste and creating a cleaner, greener environment for everyone to enjoy.

“It’s now becoming second nature to shoppers to reuse their carrier bags and hopefully to think more about our impact on the environment.”

Though Scotland is now in the forefront for tackling the plastic bag situation in Europe, Inhabitat reports that several other European countries have banned plastic bags to cut back on plastic waste. The trend is also garnering a foothold in other countries as well, especially in the United States. Though it is slow, well-known groceries and supermarkets, such as Walmart, Kroger, Publix, and Winn Dixie, are selling their brand of reusable containers (mostly reusable bags) as a green option to using their single-use carrier bags. Not only that, international grocers and markets that enforce the use of reusable containers are becoming popular in the U.S. as well. Aldi, a grocery store chain that originates from Germany, now has 1,600 stores in the U.S. as of this year.

[Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images]

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