Belfast Telegraph

Businesses oppose plastic bag tax

A plastic bag tax could help drive customers away from the high streets in Northern Ireland, a business group has said.

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. 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.

"We believe that the executive should not be introducing another tax while consumers' disposable incomes continue to fall against the backdrop of rising inflation and the difficult economic environment.

"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."

A charge for plastic bags was first introduced in the Irish Republic in 2002, at 22 cents per bag.

The Northern Ireland consultation will run until October 12 and people can make suggestions as to how much they feel the bags should cost. The charge is due to be introduced on April 1, 2013.

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, further developing the links between government, businesses and stakeholder groups in addressing this issue."

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