Single-use plastic bags, given away in shops and supermarkets around the world, contribute to the millions of tonnes of waste that end up in landfill sites and oceans every year.
In an effort to combat this problem, last week a new law was introduced in Scotland, where supermarkets currently give away 800 million carrier bags every year. From now on, all shops and supermarkets in Scotland must charge a minimum of 5p (£0.05 GBP, $0.08 USD) per carrier bag, with all profits going to good causes and environmental initiatives. It is hoped that this charge will encourage customers to think hard about whether or not they really need a bag.
However, Scotland is not the first country to introduce a charge for carrier bags; for example, Wales introduced the same charge in 2011, with Northern Ireland following last year. Many other countries in all corners of the globe have introduced similar charges, with some even banning many types of carrier bag altogether.
Yet, perhaps the greatest success story in terms of the reduction of carrier bag use is Denmark, where a charge was introduced in 2003. This Scandinavian country can now boast the lowest plastic bag use in the whole of Europe, with an average of only four bags per person every year.
I am English, and I can only hope that in England we will follow this lead and introduce a carrier bag charge very soon. In England, many supermarkets already charge for carrier bags, and others encourage the use of more durable, reusable bags. But until a charge is compulsory, many people will continue to use single-use plastic bags without thinking of the consequences for our planet. With the European Union seeking an 80 per cent reduction in the use of single-use plastic bags in the next five years, I think it will be just a matter of time before a charge is introduced in England, too.
I am currently living in Mexico, and I am finding it hard to adapt to how carrier bags are used over here. I have been in the country for around two months, and I have already accumulated a big bag full of carrier bags; every time I go to the supermarket, my shopping is packed for me into far more bags than I really need. A carrier bag charge here would definitely be a good idea!