January 30, 2012 - Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced today that a levy will be placed on single-use carrier bags starting in April, 2013. The initial levy will be five pence, increasing to ten pence in April, 2014.
Northern Ireland uses approximately 250 million carrier bags each year.(1) The levy is expected to cut the number of bags used and will reduce the environmental damage caused by carrier bags. The levy is subject to Assembly approval of the required legislation.
“There is no doubt that carrier bags are a scourge on the environment", stated Minister Attwood. "Evidence from other countries demonstrates that a bag levy is a simple and effective means to reduce substantially the negative environmental impact of carrier bag consumption. A proposed ten pence levy on single use carrier bags and lower cost reusable carrier bags can bring about significant environmental improvement."
“However I recognise that consumers will need time to change their behaviour and adjust to bringing their own bags when they shop. I therefore propose to discount the charge to five pence in the first year, when the levy will only apply to single use carrier bags. This will ensure a phased approach to charging. I am committed to making Northern Ireland a better place to live, work and invest and this will certainly contribute to that goal.”
Acceptance of the carrier bag levy by the general citizenry is expected to be good. The Department commissioned a survey to gauge baseline levels of awareness and attitudes towards the proposals to introduce the carrier bag levy. The findings suggested significant support for the concept of carrier bag charging. Also, the percentage of people who reused plastic bags is up 6%, from 59% in 2009/10 to 65% in 2010/11.(2)
Alex Attwood concluded: “I fully recognise that this new levy will be of great relevance to many consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland. People can get detailed information of arrangements for implementation on http://www.rethinkwasteni.org/carrierbaglevy. The website will be updated and extended, as the details of the carrier bag levy are developed.”