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Bags of Fun

Brace yourself, dear reader, for this blog may be the most fascinating thing you read all day. This Monday October 20th everything changes: a new charge for single use carrier bags is being introduced.

What is the charge?
The minimum is 5p. So I guess it might depend how generous I’m feeling. No one really likes 5p, do they? What a silly little coin. But I don’t think Elaine will let me charge my favourite of the coins, £1 (so gold!), so yes, the charge is 5p.

Has it been proven to work elsewhere?
Yes, the same scheme was introduced by the Welsh government in 2011. There was a 20% increase in own bag use, up to 80%, which is significantly more than in England where a similar scheme without a charge exists.

Who’s charging?
All retailers, from the smallest independent shop (hello!) to the biggest supermarket, are required to charge for each bag. So the charge will apply both in the cafe and on Dumbo.

Why is the charge happening?
The aim is to drastically reduce the number of single use bags thrown away by consumers each year. In Wales there was a 45% reduction in food service shops, up to 96% in the home improvement sector.

At Union we’ve practiced environmentally friendly principles since day one. So we’re in favour of the new legislation, even if the reality is unnecessarily complex for businesses!

What will you do with all those shiny 5p pieces anyway?
The government recommends we give ‘em to charity. And we will.

All proceeds from the bag charge will go towards local social enterprise Remade, which seems an apt choice. The organisation aims to enable people to fix things rather than throwing them away and buying new. Remade teaches repair and reuse, with the wider aim of creating jobs through re-skilling people. They cover everything from bikes and furniture to clothes and computers.

What counts as ‘single use’?
Pretty much everything except bags made of canvas or jute. Any bag with handles that is made of plastic, paper or plant materials is single use. Smaller bags like those we put our cakes in for takeaway don’t count. The legislation guidance also stipulates that ‘boxes, buckets and sealed envelopes’ won’t incur a charge. So, shall we get creative, soup fans?

How will this affect Union’s loyalty scheme?
It won’t, really. You can still return your other used packaging, such as coffee cups, soup pots and cutlery, to earn loyalty points. You can reuse your bag without incurring a charge. However, if you only reuse your bag without composting other packaging, we won’t be able to offer loyalty points.

Can I get out of paying the charge?
Nope! But you can get round it. Firstly, you could carry your soup in your paws. But if you prefer the security of a bag, then our regular paper bags can be re-used several times. Just keep hold of the first one and bring it back each time you make a soupy purchase. You can also bring your own bag of any sort.

Personally though, I would encourage you to buy one of our stylish Union of Genius jute bags. Normally £3.50, for the last two weeks in October we’ll do you a deal: any standard soup and bread in a reusable jute bag for just £5. Apart from carrying soup they’re also great for quick trips to the supermarket, or carrying a small dog.

Any other bag facts for us, Amy?
Oh yes. Did I ever tell you about the time I went to the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam? It’s the world’s foremost bag collection. It explains how bags evolved because people didn’t have pockets. And it has a bag that’s made of Swarovski crystals in the shape of a cupcake. Yup. I kid you not.

Can I tell you what I think about this new legislation?
Please do! Is it admirable and forward-thinking? Or over-complicated and unnecessary? Let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter (#BagChargeScot).

You can also read the official guidelines on the carrier bag charge here.