Belfast Telegraph

Bag tax not such a big moneyspinner

BY NOEL MCADAM

The Stormont Executive is facing an almost £2m shortfall from the plastic bag tax, new figures reveal.

For the money-raising potential of the 5p levy has now been revised downwards by the Department of the Environment.

Originally it was expected £2.3m would be earned in the first year, but the estimate is now £1.7m. And in the second year of the tax, when the charge will go up to 10p from next April, the previously anticipated total of £4.6m has been reduced to £3.4m.

Over the first two years that is £1.8m less than had been expected – the result of more people than anticipated declining to buy a bag.

But the knock-on effect could also mean there will be less to spend on environmental schemes.

A spokeswoman for the department – where new minister Mark H Durkan is currently on his honeymoon – said yesterday: "The real prize here is less bags littering our beaches and countryside, and the less bought the better."

As the Belfast Telegraph revealed in May, the use of plastic bags dropped by at least three-quarters in the first three months of the charge.

The spokeswoman added: "Early indications are that the levy has been well received by both consumers and retailers and trends within the first quarter suggest we are making good progress towards our target of an 80% reduction in single use carrier bags for the full year."

Former minister Alex Attwood had pledged to use the money on environmental schemes including a river restoration fund and to support groups pioneering initiatives which could generate environmental change.

FACTFILE

* 250m – plastic bags used annually in NI before 5p levy

* 75 % – the drop in plastic bag usage in NI since levy began

* £2.3m – how much the 5p charge was expected to raise

* £1.7m – the amount now estimated

* £1.8m – the gap between the original and new estimates for the first two years.

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