Prefers Plastic Bags over Less Desirable Alternatives

In June 2005, Scottish Liberal Democrat Mike Pringle proposed the Plastic Bags (Scotland) Bill—a plan aimed at decreasing plastic bag consumption and pollution following Ireland’s lead. The bill included a tax of 10p per plastic bag by retailers, which would be used as funding for local environmental projects.

The Scottish Executive Board commissioned its own study of the environmental benefits of a carrier bag tax. Research conducted by the United Kingdom Environmental Department (DEFRA) and government funded Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) determined that a very high proportion of households reused plastic bags and that plastic carrier bags accounted for less than 1% of Scotland’s total litter. Thus, a tax on carrier bags would have an insignificant impact on the country’s litter problem. This observation was reaffirmed by researchers at HM Treasury Plastic Bag Tax Assessment, which found that plastic bags in the UK accounted for a mere 0.3% of the municipal waste stream.

Further research confirmed that paper bags have a noticeably larger impact on the environment than plastic bags because it requires more energy to produce and transport. Although the report concluded that the bag levy would reduce annual plastic bag use by 697 million bags, at the same time, paper bag usage would experience a drastic increase of 174 million bags per year. After thoroughly examining the costs and benefits of the proposed legislation, members of the Scottish parliament’s Environmental Committee concluded that the bill would be largely unsuccessful and voted unanimously against the proposal.


MSPs reject levy on plastic bags from BBC News, September 27, 2006
Members of the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously against Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Pringle’s proposed bill to tax plastic carrier bags. After commissioning their own environmental study of the bill, the Scottish Parliament’s environmental committee came to the conclusion that the tax would not be effective in achieving its main aim.

Call for levy on plastic bags from BBC News, October 28, 2003
Scottish Liberal Democrat Mike Pringle has proposed that Scotland introduce a levy on disposable plastic bags in order to protect the environment and combat pollution. Mr. Pringle uses the success of Ireland’s Plastax as an argument for its implementation in Scotland, explaining that the scheme will be designed to be carried out through local authorities and has already been greeted with optimism in several cities in England.

Bags plan ‘has limited benefits’ from BBC News, August 29, 2005
As a response to Mike Pringle’s Plastic Bags (Scotland) Bill, the Scottish Executive ordered their own environmental study on the potential effects of the tax. Researchers found that the bag tax would have a “minor” impact on the country’s litter problem and that there were more effective ways to make a more significant environmental difference.

MSP proposes plastic bag charge from BBC News, June 20, 2005
Liberal Democrat Mike Pringle officially unveils his proposal to make vendors charge 10p per plastic carrier bag to the Scottish Parliament. According to Mr. Pringle, plastic bags take an extremely long amount of time to decompose in landfill sites and present a challenge to the wellbeing of the environment. The Scottish Executive has decided to first commission their own study of the proposed bag levy before passing any firm decisions.

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