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Proposed Plastic Bag Levy - Extended Impact Assessment: Volume 1: Main Report

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1 Report Context

Mike Pringle MSP ( www.mikepringlemsp.com) tabled a Members Bill in the Scottish Parliament for a Member's Bill to enable local authorities in Scotland to impose an environmental levy on specified plastic bags [Pringle]. If passed, this legislation would cover all plastic bags provided by retailers at point-of-sale or from other outlets. The inspiration for this bill was taken from the experience of the plastic bags levy (the so-called PlasTax) in the Republic of Ireland.

The Scottish Executive commissioned this brief study from AEA Technology Environment and associates in order to investigate and assess the range of environmental, business and consumer impacts related to the proposal to introduce a plastic bag levy in Scotland. In doing so, other potential options or variants on the proposed levy have also been researched.

In this study, we used the Irish definition of a lightweight plastic carrier bag, i.e. 'any bag made wholly or in part of plastic, suitable for use by a customer at point of sale in a supermarket, service station or retail outlet'. Heavier weight plastic carrier bags, the so-called 'bags for life', costing more than €0.70 (around £0.48) are excluded from the Irish levy.

This Volume of the report is structured as follows:

Section 2 sets out background information on the various types of carrier bags and why they would be subject to a potential levy.

Section 3 presents an assessment of the views for and against a levy based on experiences from around the world and from a variety of stakeholders.

Section 4 presents the life cycle assessment ( LCA) analysis undertaken for different plastic bag levy scenarios. As well as the bill tabled by Mike Pringle, we assessed scenarios that looked at the effect of applying the levy to paper bags as well as plastic bags and focusing only on larger retailers. No new LCA was undertaken for this report. Instead, the results from other suitable LCAs were adapted with Scottish data to show the relative environmental effects of a levy or variants thereof.

Section 5 analyses the impacts a levy would have on consumers and businesses.

Section 6 reviews and comments on levy collection and impacts on local authorities.

Section 7 presents our conclusions.

Volume 2 of the report contains the following Appendices:

Appendix 1 reviews international experience.

Appendix 2 provides details of the retail context.

Appendix 3 provides details on the LCA approach including the sensitivity analysis.

Appendix 4 provides graphs on the distribution of revenue to local authorities.

References are designated in square brackets, e.g. [ CBC].