Recycling payday for shoppers

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Shoppers across the Capital could soon be rewarded for shunning plastic bags in favour of re-usable ones.

Councillors have agreed to carry out a feasibility study into a city-wide bonus bag scheme, where anyone with a re-usable bag would get a discount, freebie or voucher in local shops.

Green councillor Alison Johnstone put the proposal to the council's transport infrastructure and environment committee, based on a successful scheme already operated by Greener Leith.

If it is given the go-ahead, the initiative would see bags - probably organic cotton carriers emblazoned with the message "We Love Edinburgh" - given or sold to shoppers.

Cllr Johnstone said: "Rolling out the Greener Leith bonus bag scheme would show that the city really does want to support its smaller, independent traders and at the same time it will reduce plastic waste. The 'Edinburgh Bag' would work like a club or discount card, so no bag, no discount."

Councillor Johnstone, who represents Meadows and Morningside, said there was growing support for measures to make Edinburgh plastic bag-free. She said the drive against plastic bags would also reduce the money which the council has to pay for dumping waste in the ground. "The landfill tax costs the Edinburgh council tax-payer 7 million a year. This cash could be better spent."

Environmental campaigner Gordon Millar, of Ban Plastic Bags Edinburgh, said he was delighted with the council move. He said: "Around the world, lots of countries are putting taxes on plastic bags, which generates revenue but taxes are not popular. This is more positive - providing bags to retailers, which they then give or sell to customers and when the customer returns with the bag they get a bonus, which could be a discount or a freebie or a voucher.

"Most of us have these kinds of bag nowadays, but we forget to take them with us. The bonus acts as a reminder to customers to take their re-usable bag to the shops. It's a win-win for customers and retailers."

Mr Millar said plastic bags produced huge CO2 emissions during production and littered the landscape after use.

"Our ultimate goal is to ban plastic bags completely," he said. "Mayor Boris Johnson has already said he wants to make London plastic bag-free by the 2012 Olympics."

Environment leader Councillor Robert Aldridge said: "The council fully recognises its role in supporting these worthwhile and environmentally-friendly initiatives and we have supported a number of these bonus bag schemes in the past.

"These types of projects are very much rooted within local communities, and it is such schemes that have most chance of changing people's attitudes towards waste and recycling."