A plastic bag tax could help drive customers away from the high streets in Northern Ireland, a business group has warned.
Retailers are already struggling from the recession and fresh regulation could produce “further administrative burdens”, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) added.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood is consulting on the levy which he hopes could produce environmental and financial benefits. However, independent retailers fear it will be bad for business.
Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive at the BHA, said: “Whilst we support the environmental need to reduce packaging, including reducing the number of carrier bags in circulation, this is another financial and administrative burden at the worst possible time for the local economy.
“In this climate a carrier bag tax could contribute to driving consumers away from our already struggling high streets, potentially limiting growth, hurting local retailers, as well as providing further administrative burdens on small businesses.”
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said the aims of the tax are flawed.
“We believe the Executive should build upon the voluntary approach of reducing bag usage, which has already been established,” he said.
“By providing all consumers with a tangible disincentive to take and waste plastic bags, it will encourage them to recognise both the issues around their disposal and production.”
The charge is due to be introduced on April 1, 2013. A charge for plastic bags was first introduced in the Republic in 2002, at 15 cents per bag.
Wales introduced a compulsory 5p charge for single-use carrier bags on October 1, and any firms who flout the law could face penalties of £5,000. Ireland put a charge of 15 cents on plastic bags in 2002 and this charge rose to 22 cents in 2007.