Page last updated at 23:50 GMT, Thursday, 3 April 2008 00:50 UK

Bag-free bid rustles up support

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
BBC Scotland news website, south of Scotland reporter

Selkirk bag free launch
The town's bag free status was launched on Friday

The familiar rustle of the plastic shopping bag is set to become a thing of the past in one Borders town.

About 95% of traders in Selkirk have signed up to a scheme which will see them ditch that particular means of getting the messages home.

To celebrate the project's launch about 1,000 specially-designed reusable bags are being issued.

It is hoped the cotton bags - sporting a design by local schoolchildren - will become a must-have accessory.

"They are made in India on a Fairtrade basis and they are printed with environmentally-friendly ink," explained Anna Hinnigan of Selkirk Plastic Bag Free.

"We are very excited about them because we think they are going to look great.

We want Selkirk and the Borders to retain their natural beauty without being overrun by plastic bags blowing about in the wind
Anna Hinnigan
Selkirk Plastic Bag Free

"We have already had people asking us when they are going to be given out."

Co-op manager Ronnie McCuddin said the store had been pleased to come on board.

"We have brought in a new cornstarch bag that retails at five pence which, after it is used, you can put on a compost heap," he said.

"We have also got our cotton Fairtrade bag which can be used over and over again.

"We try and educate the customer into taking the new form of bag but if that doesn't work and all else fails, they can have a normal plastic bag."

Ms Hinnigan said that the whole idea of a plastic bag free town appeared to have captured the imagination of locals.

A plastic bag
Modbury, Devon
Girton, Cambridgeshire
Overton, Hampshire
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
Tisbury, Wiltshire
Hay-on-Wye, Powys
Selkirk, Scottish Borders

"You see people with their reusable shopping bags and then they are buying them for all their family to make sure that they are doing it," she said.

"They are sort of on a mini-campaign themselves.

"People have really taken it to heart and are trying to do something about it."

One slight setback came from local butcher Gordon Newlands, who runs Halliwells in the town's Market Place.

He ordered a five-year supply of bags before the initiative was announced back in November.

"I support the campaign in principle but there are 65,000 reasons why I cannot go along with it at the moment," he explained.

"That is the amount of plastic bags I currently have in stock and it is going to take about five years to get rid of them.

"There are a few shops in a similar position."

'Talk them round'

Selkirk Plastic Bag Free does not intend to be heavy-handed with such traders.

It says just four of the town's 108 shops have decided not to participate.

That puts the town well above the 75% criteria for being declared plastic bag free.

Selkirk town centre
The majority of shops in Selkirk have agreed to go bag free

"Some traders have not yet signed up to the pledge to stop distributing plastic bags for various reasons but we hope to talk them round," said Ms Hinnigan.

"There are also others who have been very supportive but say they have to get rid of their stock first which is understandable."

She said that overall the response had been "very encouraging".

"We want Selkirk and the Borders to retain their natural beauty without being overrun by plastic bags blowing about in the wind," she said.

The scheme has also received the endorsement of the Scottish Government.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead called on the rest of the country to follow Selkirk's lead.

"Plastic bags can lead to litter which is a blight on Scotland's landscape," he said.

"I am delighted that the people and retailers of Selkirk are making a genuine effort to reduce the use of unnecessary bags.

"Other communities in Scotland are moving in the same direction, but there is no doubt that the town is setting an excellent example for the rest of the country."

Minister backs town bag free bid
10 Mar 08 |  South of Scotland
Plastic bag-free town on target
21 Feb 08 |  South of Scotland
City launches plastic bags scheme
29 Nov 07 |  Tayside and Central

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