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Call for Northern Ireland plastic bag tax to increase to 20p as 100m used in year

 

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The 5p levy was introduced in April 2013

The 5p levy was introduced in April 2013

Carrier bag usage in Northern Ireland has fallen by two-thirds since the 5p levy was introduced five years ago - but retailers here still dispensed nearly 100 million bags last year

Carrier bag usage in Northern Ireland has fallen by two-thirds since the 5p levy was introduced five years ago - but retailers here still dispensed nearly 100 million bags last year

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The 5p levy was introduced in April 2013

Carrier bag usage in Northern Ireland has fallen by two-thirds since the 5p levy was introduced five years ago - but retailers here still dispensed nearly 100 million bags last year.

The figures, released yesterday, led to calls from environmentalists for the amount charged per bag to increase to up to 20p.

And Friends of the Earth is calling for a review of the carrier bag levy, introduced here in 2013 with the aim of protecting the environment, saying the "environment has been a casualty of the failure to have a government."

Figures from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) show that 98.8 million bags were dispensed by retailers under the carrier bag levy between April 1 2017 and March 31 this year - equivalent to around 139 bags per household.

This was 1.1% lower than the previous year, with 1.1 million fewer bags dispensed.

The figure is substantially lower than the estimated 300 million bags dispensed in 2012, the year before the levy's introduction, representing a fall of 67.1%.

The proceeds of the levy totalled £4.9m - a reduction of £100,000 on the previous year.

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According to the DAERA report, the fifth year of operation marks "a milestone for the carrier bag levy as the reduction in the number of bags in circulation across Northern Ireland is estimated to have reached one billion bags since the levy was introduced."

The majority of bags dispensed here in the last year were lower rate bags costing 5p (78.4 million), compared to 20.4 million upper rate bags which cost under 20p.

Ian Humphreys, the CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, suggested raising the levy.

"Increasing the amount charged per bag from 5p to 10p or even 20p is a realistic suggestion," he said. "And why stop at just bags? A levy could be applied to prevent or at least reduce littering of other commonly-encountered 'single use plastics'."

The Northern Ireland director of Friends of the Earth James Orr called for "major change", adding: "The fact that such a small country still uses 100 million plastic bags is shameful. The plastic bag levy needs to be urgently reviewed.

"One major change that is needed is that companies that make and market plastic bags only pay a fraction of the cost of collection and recycling or disposal - with the rest of society paying for the vast majority of the costs. These firms should make a far bigger contribution."

Mr Orr said one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die worldwide annually due to plastic waste.


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