Northern Ireland to bring in 5p plastic bag tax from 2013

Environment minister says population uses 160m bags a year and ‘government is dedicated to the clean and green agenda’

A 5p plastic bag tax will be imposed throughout Northern Ireland from next year.

Alex Attwood, environment minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, said on Monday that the 5p levy would rise to 10p by April 2014.

But the SDLP minister stressed there would be no charge for multi-use bags in 2013, although they will cost 10p the following year.

“We want to demonstrate that the Northern Ireland government is dedicated to the clean and green agenda,” Attwood said.

“One way to do that is to reduce the 160m plastic bags that are used in Northern Ireland every year.”

He added: “There is no doubt that carrier bags are a scourge on the environment.

“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.

“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 5p in the first year. This will ensure a phased approach to charging.”

A charge for plastic bags was first introduced in the Republic of Ireland in 2002. The charge currently stands at 22 cents (18p) per bag.

Following the introduction of the charge, consumption of plastic bags in the Republic fell by 90% – from an initial consumption of 1.2bn bags per year, or about 306 per person.

The charge has also raised over €173m for Ireland’s exchequer.

Henry McDonald

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