Belfast Telegraph

Bag levy will not increase from five pence to ten pence next year – Durkan

Stormont Executive press release - Department of the Environment

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has today announced that the carrier bag levy will not go up from five pence to ten pence next year.

The Department had previously proposed increasing the levy to ten pence from April 2014. However, the August release of provisional first quarter figures showed a large reduction in single use bag numbers. For example figures from several major supermarkets point towards a reduction of well in excess of 80% in those stores.

After reflecting on this and engaging with stakeholders, the Minister has decided to keep the levy at five pence.

Mark H Durkan explained: “I have always said that the public have been ahead of government here wanting a reduction in bags littering our streets and countryside. The recent results show that the five pence levy has produced a step change in consumer behaviour – leading to a significant reduction in bag numbers. As a result I believe that we do not need to increase the levy to ten pence. Since the introduction of the five pence levy, the public have adopted a very responsible attitude and I commend them for that. I therefore will keep the levy at five pence for the foreseeable future. I will of course keep the situation under review.

The Minister still intends to proceed with plans to extend the five pence levy to low cost reusable carrier bags from April 2014. This is to prevent these bags becoming the new ‘throwaway’ bags. The Carrier Bags Bill, which will provide the Department with the powers to apply the extension, was introduced to the Assembly in June. The Bill is currently being scrutinised by the Environment Committee.

The Minister continued: “The single use bag levy is only the first part of the equation. It is necessary to extend the levy to low cost reusable bags, to prevent these from becoming the new ‘throwaway’ bag. If these bags are thrown away after only one or two uses, this would prove harmful to the environment.

The Minister cited a recent local survey which highlighted that, despite the very substantial reduction in single use bag numbers, only 56% of shoppers are frequently reusing their carrier bags.

He added: “Retailers will of course still be free to operate a ‘bag for life’ policy, whereby shops apply an initial charge for these more durable bags and then replace these bags for free when they are worn out. The levy won’t apply to these free replacements.

The Minister concluded: “This has always been, and continues to be, about protecting the environment and I look forward in coming weeks to announcing the first set of environmental projects which will be funded from money generated by the levy.

“Retailers have played a big part in making the single use bag levy such a success and I congratulate them on that. I urge business to work with the Department to ensure that the extension of the levy to low cost reusable bags next year builds on the success to date.”

Notes to editors:

1. Retailer returns to the Department of the Environment provisionally indicate that 17.5 million single use carrier bags attracting the five pence levy were dispensed during the first quarter (8 April – 30 June 2013 inclusive).
2. From April 2014, the Department intends to apply the carrier bag levy to all carrier bags retailing for less than 20 pence.
3. The proposal differs from arrangements in Wales where bag charging is confined to single use bags. It is however, consistent with the Irish plastic bag levy, which applies to bags retailing for less than 70 cents.
4. A WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) study (July 2013) indicated that following the introduction of charging for single use bags, bag for life sales for five major retailers in Wales increased by 120-130%.
5. Retailers who still have not registered with the Department – or have not made their return for the first quarter – should go to http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/baglevy click on the “retailer registration login” button and simply follow the onscreen instructions.
6. If retailers encounter any problems they should contact the Carrier Bag Levy Team on 0300 200 7879 between the hours of 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, or by email on carrierbaglevy@doeni.gov.uk

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