Shoppers in Northern Ireland can expect their weekly shop to cost a little more from 8th April 2013, as assembly members vote in favour of the ‘Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations ’ and agree on a carrier bag levy of at least 5p per bag.
Surprisingly, the new levy in not confined to plastic carrier bags, but it also applies to biodegradable bags made from paper, plant-based materials and natural starch, with the only exemptions being bags used for hot food (due to hygiene and food safety) and prescription medicines.
An estimated 250 million single use carrier bags are handed out in Northern Ireland each year, and the assembly believe that this new legislation will communicate a widespread ‘reduce and reuse’ waste message, and that it could cut the demand for single use carrier bags by up to 80%.
Defending the levy, Environment Minister Alex Attwood said, “The key objective of the carrier bag levy is to reduce or eliminate the unnecessary use of bags, regardless of the material from which they are made”, he continued, “This is an area where consumers can really help the environment. The image of NI as ‘green and clean’ – a major part of the character of our lives and the appeal of this place – can be deepened if we deal decisively with carrier bags and the damage they cause.”
From 8th April 2013, retailers across Northern Ireland will be responsible for collecting at least 5p for every single use carrier bag they hand out, and the proceeds will go to the Department of the Environment to help fund environmental projects, programmes and activities.
A similar charge for plastic bags was introduced in the Republic of Ireland some 11 years ago, which resulted in a drop in demand by 90% and raised over €160 million for Ireland’s exchequer. The charge for single use bags in the republic now stands at around 22 euro cents per bag (approx 18p).