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The term ‘single use carrier bag’ is defined broadly in the Regulations so as to encompass all carrier bags that are supplied with the intention that they are to be used once, to carry goods away from the point of sale.

For bags made wholly or mainly from plastic then the bag is considered to be a single use carrier bag if either of the following apply:

  • Made of thin plastic (any part of the bag has a thickness of no more than 49 microns); or
  • Less than 439mm x 404mm when laid flat (excluding the handles).
  • Other plastic bags, bags made wholly or mainly from paper, plant based material (other than cotton, flax, hemp, jute or sisal) or natural starch are also seen as single use carrier bags, unless the bag is a multi-use bag which is:
    • Purchased by the customer;
    • Returnable to the retailer from whom it was purchased to be replaced free of charge when it is worn out;
    • Clearly marked that it can be returned and replaced in this way.

 The Regulations do not apply to other types of product that might be used to carry or package goods such as boxes, buckets, sealed plastic packaging or envelopes

Bags considered to be for single-use and therefore subject to a minimum of 5p charge.

The term ‘single use carrier bag’ is defined broadly in the Regulations so as to encompass all carrier bags that are supplied with the intention that they are to be used once, to carry goods away from the point of sale.

For bags made wholly or mainly from plastic then the bag is considered to be a single use carrier bag if either of the following apply:

Made of thin plastic (any part of the bag has a thickness of no more than 49 microns); or

Less than 439mm x 404mm when laid flat (excluding the handles).

Other plastic bags, bags made wholly or mainly from paper, plant based material (other than cotton, flax, hemp, jute or sisal) or natural starch are also seen as single use carrier bags, unless the bag is a multi-use bag which is:

  • Purchased by the customer;
  • Returnable to the retailer from whom it was purchased to be replaced free of charge when it is worn out;
  • Clearly marked that it can be returned and replaced in this way.

Certain bags are exempt from the charge under the Regulations, including:

  • Bags of any size used solely to contain exempted items listed in the Regulations:
  • Unpackaged food for human or animal consumption, such as loose fruit and vegetables, bakery items, pick and mix sweets and dry animal food.
  • Unpackaged loose seeds, bulbs, corms or rhizomes, such as grass seeds, daffodil bulbs or root ginger.
  • Any unpackaged axe, knife, knife blade or razor blades, such as a kitchen knife which is mounted on cardboard but not then enclosed in wrapping.
  • Unpackaged goods contaminated by soil, such as soil, compost, potted plants, fishing bait and wormery worms.
  • Certain medicinal products, such as fulfilling prescription requests and pharmacy medication which can only be dispensed by a qualified pharmacist.

Bags of a certain size used solely to contain packaged uncooked meat, poultry and fish:

  • As well as the above exemption on unpackaged foods, there is no obligation to charge if the bag is used solely to contain packaged uncooked fish or fish products, packaged uncooked meat or meat products or packaged uncooked poultry or poultry products.
  • This exemption only applies where the bag is less than 206mm (width) x 459mm (height including handles) with a maximum gusset of 125mm.

Small bags that can always be supplied free of charge:

  • Small paper bags, no greater than 175mm x 260mm, without a handle and/or a gusset. These types of bags are generally used for small items such as greeting cards.
  • Small paper bags, no greater than 155mm x 80mm, without a handle but with a gusset of no more than 50mm. These types of bags are generally used for pick and mix confectionary or in pharmacies for non-prescription medicines.
  • Small flat plastic bags, no greater than 125mm x 125mm, without a handle. These types of bags are usually used for small hardware or haberdashery items such as screws or buttons.

Certain specialist bags are also exempted from the requirement to charge:

  • Mail order dispatch or courier bags for the delivery of goods.
  • Bags used for the transport of live aquatic creatures.
  • Liners used to cover boxes, crates or other containers of a similar nature.

Bags of any size used to contain items purchased in airports and on board vehicles, vessels and aircraft:

  • There is no obligation to charge for supplying single use carrier bags on board ships, trains, aircraft, coaches or buses. This bag does not have to be used solely to contain purchases made on board the vehicle.
  • There is no obligation to charge for supplying single use carrier bags in restricted areas in airports, including duty free shops and other airside retail outlets.

The Regulations do not apply to other types of product that might be used to carry or package goods such as boxes, buckets, sealed plastic packaging or envelopes.

If your business employs 10 or more full time equivalent (FTE) members of staff then you have a requirement under the Regulations to keep, retain and produce information about the single use carrier bags supplied and the money received as a result of having to charge for bags.

If your business employs less than 10 FTE members of staff on the first day of the reporting year, then you are exempt from this requirement to record information. Business here refers to the overall company, therefore if you own more than one outlet it is the total number of staff employed by the company. Full time staff count as 1 FTE and part time staff count as a fraction of one FTE, in proportion to the number of hours they work compared to a full time staff member.

The information recorded must include the following details:

  • The number of chargeable single use carrier bags supplied.
  • Price charged per bag.
  • Total income received arising from the charge.
  • A breakdown of overheads incurred (VAT if applicable, costs reasonably incurred to enable the seller to comply with the Regulations and costs reasonably incurred to enable the seller to communicate information about the charge to customers).
  • Net proceeds of the charge (amount received by way of the charge less cost of overheads).

The first reporting year started on 20 October 2014 and the second reporting year started on 7 April 2015. Each reporting year will always start on 7 April each year.

Under the Regulations it is intended that only “core” staff are considered when calculating the number of FTEs employed by a business. You should therefore discount temporary or casual staff covering periods of absence by a member of staff, work carried out by casual staff on an ad hoc basis students or jobseekers undertaking work experience, work carried out by apprentices or volunteers, and incidental work carried out by casual staff such as impromptu deliveries and cleaning.  Permanent staff who are absent from work on the first day of the reporting year due for example to maternity leave or ill health should be counted, but not any temporary or casual staff employed to cover the absence.

When operating in a retail concession, such as in a department store, the responsibility to keep records is with you the retailer and not the host store. Depending on the arrangements between you, the retailer, and your host these records can be kept either by individually or on an aggregated basis, whichever places least burden on the businesses involved.

Where a business is operated under a franchise scheme, each individual franchisee is a separate trading entity and is therefore required to keep, retain and produce records on an individual franchisee basis. However, if a franchisee owns and operates more than one franchise store, then that franchisee is able to keep, retain and produce an amalgamated record and is not required to keep separate records for each store.

An example template for recording this information can be found in the Retail Guidance.

You should consider how to evidence the reasonableness of any costs to enable compliance with the Regulations should the need to so arise. Examples of reasonable costs could include on-going training of staff, monitoring compliance across multiple stores, staff time administering the charge, costs incurred producing records on request and on-going maintenance of systems to administer the charge.

Likewise evidence should also be considered on the reasonableness of any costs to communicate information about the charge to your customers. Examples of these costs could include website activity, staff time talking to customers about the charge and any costs of printed materials distributed to customers.

The Regulations do not impose any obligation on how the net proceeds of the charge should be used; those proceeds belong to your business and the decision on how to use this money is one for individual businesses to make. The Scottish Government would encourage sellers to donate the net proceeds of the charge to good causes and particularly ones that benefit the environment.

A Carrier Bag Commitment has been developed in partnership with the retail sector and administered by Zero Waste Scotland. This Carrier Bag Commitment provides guiding principles on how the net proceeds should be used.

Where your business already has an existing relationship with good causes the Scottish Government does not wish to interfere with these arrangements.

While the Regulations do not include a requirement to publish these records, the Scottish Government is encouraging retailers to do so, particularly through participation in the Carrier Bag Commitment.

Records must be retained for a 3 year period. The retention period begins on 31 May following the end of the reporting year in question.

You are obliged to produce these records as specified in the Regulations if a local authority requests it. Records must be provided within 28 days of receiving the request. This obligation applies to all sellers who are required to keep records, regardless of their VAT status or the number of single use carrier bags that they supply.

Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment.

The Regulations do not impose any obligation on how the net proceeds of the charge should be used; those proceeds belong to the business and the decision on how to use this money is one for individual businesses to make.

The Scottish Government is encouraging retailers to donate the net proceeds of the charge to good causes in Scotland, particularly ones that benefit the environment and to publish information on donations.

Zero Waste Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment is a useful, free tool to centralise reporting and recording requirements. Retailers of all sizes can sign up to the Commitment at www.carrierbagcommitment.org.uk.

Benefits of being a signatory include:

  • External and independent commendation of donations of the net proceeds made to good causes.
  • Access to the Reporting Portal which will backup and store signatory data for a 3 year period, helping fulfil the record keeping requirement under the Regulations.
  • Access to a range of communication materials, developed for use by signatories, to promote membership of the Carrier Bag Commitment and the good causes being supported.
  • Flexible reporting options to suit businesses or all sizes.

Prior to implementation of the Regulations Zero Waste Scotland managed the business–to-business communication and the Scottish Government delivered the consumer campaign.

The consumer campaign was implemented through extensive press and radio coverage to raise awareness among the Scottish public. The above-the-line will be supported with media relations, social media and partnership working, that is, presence in-store at point-of-purchase.

Zero Waste Scotland supported retailers in communicating to their customers by doing the following activities:

  • Partnership working with in-store presence to raise awareness among shoppers at point-of-purchase.
  • Staff engagement training video.
  • Detailed Retail Guidance on the Regulations.
  • Media Relations campaign engaging with trade publications and business press from early 2014 to clarify the Scottish Regulations to counter confusion with other nations where Regulations differ.
  • Detailed FAQ with emphasis on explaining the exemptions.
  • Direct mail to retailers with signposting to the website, the Retail Guidance and copies of essential in-store posters.

Stakeholder joint-working with the Scottish Retail Consortium, Federation of Small Business and many other influential organisations so that they are in a position to debrief, inform and raise awareness of the charge among their members.

Zero Waste Scotland continues to provide support to retailers through dedicated enquiries email inboxes and proactive press and PR to highlight the impact the legislation has had in Scotland and to promote the efforts of signatories of the Carrier Bag Commitment.

The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Scotland) Regulations took effect in Scotland on Monday 20th October 2014.

Single use carrier bags can no longer be given away free of charge when people buy goods. Single use carrier bags can be made from plastic, paper or some types of plant based material. A full definition is provided under the Regulations.

Some single use carrier bags are exempt from the requirement to charge. Details are available (from the Retail Guidance) on which bags are exempt from the requirement to charge.

These Regulations do not fix the amount you, as a retailer, must charge for a bag but rather require a minimum price of 5p per bag is charged.

If you employ 10 or more FTE (Full Time Equivalent) staff then you have an obligation to keep, retain and produce information relating to the amount of single use carrier bags you supply and the money received as a result of charging for these bags.

If your business is found in breach of the Regulations then enforcement action can be taken and liability to a criminal penalty arises where a breach is proved..  Further information is available on what would be considered a breach of the Regulations.

Scottish Government expects the proceeds from this charge to be donated to good causes in Scotland. All retailers can sign up to the Carrier Bag Commitment, committing to donate proceeds to good causes. Signing up also provides benefits such as storing and backing up reporting data for the 3 years required to meet the requirements of the Regulations and access to communication material to promote membership to the Carrier Bag Commitment and the good causes being supported.

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