Northern Ireland Reduces Carrier Bag Usage by 72%

Northern Ireland, Aug. 27, 2014 - The Department of the Environment of Northern Ireland today published the first set of Carrier Bag Levy statistics. The figures show a marked decrease of almost 72%, which equates to a reduction of around 215 million bags.

Mark Durkan, Environment Minister, Northern Ireland. Credit: Government of Northern Ireland.
Mark Durkan, Environment Minister, Northern Ireland. Credit: Government of Northern Ireland.

Mark H Durkan, speaking during a visit to Gormley’s Centra, Claudy, said: “The response from shoppers has been very positive and retailers have also risen to the challenge. The result has been a very significant reduction in single use carrier bags.

“During the past year, I have ensured that money from the bag levy has gone back into the community through environmental projects. I have visited many of these projects and have been inspired by the great work being done.

“I am delighted to announce that £2.5million of this year’s levy receipts will be available to support community projects. The community pays the levy and I will ensure that the community gets the benefit of the levy.”

These statistics indicate that the people of Northern Ireland have embraced the carrier bag levy by reducing their consumption of single use bags dramatically.

Carrier bag usage figures for the first year of operation of the levy indicate that 84.5 million single use carrier bags were dispensed by retailers across Northern Ireland as opposed to around 300 million bags in the year prior to the levy. The 5p levy has delivered a reduction in bag numbers of 71.8% in its first year and generated net proceeds of £4.17million.

In year one of operations quarterly bag usage figures ranged from 19.4 million in Quarter One (April 2013 – June 2013), 21.6 million in Quarter 2 (July 2013 – September 2013) to 24.0 million in Quarter 3 (October 2013 – December 2013). This upward trend in quarters 2 and 3 could be attributed to seasonal variation over both the summer and Christmas periods when tourists and shoppers were caught out without a bag. Bag usage numbers reduced to 19.5 million bags in Quarter 4 (January 2014 – March 2014).

This evidence suggests that the introduction of the levy has reinforced earlier voluntary efforts by both retailers and shoppers to reduce substantially the negative environmental impact of carrier bag consumption by avoiding the unnecessary use of single use carrier bags. These previous efforts had already reduced single use bag numbers from an estimated 425 million bags in 2006/7.

The figures are based on data supplied by 3,189 retailers. A small proportion of businesses are not yet registered with the Department however, work undertaken by Levy field staff has determined that these businesses typically do not dispense single use bags.

Under the Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013, retailers are required to charge at least 5p for each single use carrier bag supplied new to customers and pay the net proceeds of the levy to the Department. The net proceeds of the levy for 2013/14 total £4.17million.

In seeking to deliver community environmental projects to support wellbeing and prosperity, the Department has already allocated this revenue back into the local community through the Challenge Fund resulting in a final spend of £2.3million. More than 250 environmental projects have been supported and delivered in the past year. A further £1.1million has been allocated to the Natural Heritage Grant, Sustainability Innovation Fund and Local Clean-up Support.