Experts Views

In 2005, the Scottish Environmental and Rural Development Committee received the following expert views on the proposed scottish Plastic Bag Tax:

“…does not support……a plastic bag levy”

“would be discriminatory against environmentally….aware companies such as ours”

“the Bill… of questionable environmental benefit”

”we urge the rejection of the proposed levy”

“a poor piece of legislation…potentially resulting in significant job losses”

“potentially negative effects on charity shops”

“cannot support the legislation in its current form”

“A tax will cost me more and not reduce the packaging waste I generate. This is a bad proposal, which can only lead to bad legislation, and achieve very little.”

“We question the environmental improvement that the tax will generate as landfill increases with substitution of paper bags and emissions could well increase instead of reducing. We wish to lodge and have recorded our objection to this bill.”

“There is no more environmentally-friendly option, including paper and degradable bags, than the conventional plastic carrier bag. A carrier bag tax will effectively drive people to more environmentally-damaging alternatives.”

“We would like to register our serious concerns about the proposed levy on plastic bags. The environmental impact of a carrier bag is miniscule compared with that caused by heating our homes and driving our cars.”

“There is no credible indication that consumer attitude to litter pollution in Ireland has changed as a specific result of this levy.”

“The proposed Bill would not only fail to achieve its key objectives but would actually have a negative impact on the environment by creating thousands of tonnes of additional waste. All of this would come at an additional cost to Scottish local authorities, businesses and consumers and would impact most heavily, both practically and financially, on the poorest sections of the community. Finally, the Bill would not seem compatible with EU law, will reduce scarce manufacturing jobs and increase the risk of yet another Scottish head quartered business moving south.”

“I do not think that the bill would have been my first choice of measure to deal with litter”

Duncan McLaren, Friends of Earth Scotland

“More use of paper bags would result in increased carbon dioxide emissions”

Allan Dryer, Scottish Environmental Protections Agency

“We are worried about (the bill’s) being sold to the public as an environmental measure when it involves an increase in the amount of paper bags and in sales of plastic bin-bags.”

Richard Swannell, Waste and Resources Action Programme

“The plastic bag levy on its own was not going to solve any problems to do with waste minimisation”

Seàn O’Súilleabháin, Government of Ireland Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (on the Irish Levy)

“The legislation’s sole purpose was to solve a litter problem… we did not claim that it would have any other waste minimisation or prevention effects; that it would prevent the additional use of plastic; or that it would reduce the amount of plastic to landfill.”

Seàn O’Súilleabháin, Government of Ireland Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (on the Irish Levy)

“My position is clear: I am looking for what is right for Scotland. I want waste to be minimised rather than maximised – I am not really interested in anything else – and the bill will assuredly not minimise waste. The bill cannot possibly reduce waste; indeed, if the AEA Technology Environment average figures are used, an extra 15,700 tonnes of waste will be produced.”

Neil Young, Simpac Ltd.

 “I went to Ireland on business last week and picked up five bananas in a supermarket. They were packaged in a polystyrene tray with a polypropylene coating that had two paper labels on it. The weight of that packaging was the equivalent of seven carrier bags.”

Neil Young, Simpac Ltd.

“Plastic bags are not significant in the municipal waste stream. Plastic bags are not significant in the litter stream on streets and pavements… If a levy on plastic bags should be introduced, the Executive would expect the amount of waste generated in Scotland to increase by some 13,742 tonnes a year.”

Environment and Rural Development Department, Scottish Executive

Subsequent comment by Ben Bradshaw, UK Minister for Local Environment:

“The extended impact assessment carried out by the Scottish Executive on a proposal to introduce a levy on plastic bags in Scotland concluded that there would be a broad environmental disbenefit if a levy was introduced on the lines proposed. The number of single-use plastic bags in circulation could be significantly reduced through reuse and recycling, so we have asked the Waste and Resources Action Programme to investigate the feasibility of a national bag for life scheme. This would encourage consumers to use strong, re-usable plastic bags in place of single-use bags. Life cycle analysis surveys suggest that re-using such bags between for and seven times would have significant environmental benefits when compared to alternatives such as plastic carrier bags, paper bags and biodegradable bags.”

The Scottish Executive has said

“a levy on plastic bags would encourage consumers to consider whether or not they need to purchase a new bag. However, it is less certain that it would increase waste awareness generally.” The Executive seems to doubt, rightly, that a levy on carrier bags would have any wider effect on consumer behaviour. Seàn O’Súilleabháin of the Irish Government said that “the levy per se did not raise awareness.”