Carrier bag levy of 5p approved
Chemists, butchers, fast food outlets and charity shops are exempted
Chemists, charity shops, butchers and fast food outlets will be exempt from the carrier bag charges which are due to come into force in April.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood has said that single-use carrier bags will cost 5p after new legislation was approved.
Mr Attwood said that the levy — which is being introduced on April 8 for the first time in Northern Ireland — will rise to 10p in 2014.
He said that there would be no charge for multi-use bags in 2013, but that they will also cost 10p next year.
“Recent statistics have shown a significant increase in single-use carrier bags handed out by major supermarkets in Northern Ireland — it is the big retailers which I am most interested in,” said Mr Attwood.
“We can reduce the number of carrier bags by at least 80%; this levy helps.”
The levy is not confined to plastic bags — as it is in the Republic — but it also applies to bags made from paper, plant-based material or natural starch.
However, there are exemptions from the levy on the grounds of hygiene and food safety, the protection of both goods and consumers and confidentiality in respect of prescription medicine.
“Charity shops that reuse plastic bags do not have to charge customers for them,” Mr Attwood told the Belfast Telegraph. “Also exempt are bags that you put prescriptions or meat in and bags that hot food and beverages are put in to take out of premises.”
Mr Attwood said the aim of the levy was to reduce the 260 million bags that are used in Northern Ireland every year.
He added that all the money raised from the initiative will go towards environmental projects.
A charge for plastic bags was first introduced in the Republic in 2002 and it currently stands at 22 cents per bag. Authorities there estimate that, following the introduction of the charge, consumption of plastic bags fell by 90%. The charge has also raised over €173m (£143m) for the Irish exchequer.