Environmental projects across Northern Ireland are to benefit from £2.2 million in funding raised through the carrier bag levy.
total of 24 projects will receive funding, ranging from £6,700 to £257,000. Among the initiatives set to benefit are projects to recruit and train volunteers for bird monitoring surveys, carry out conservation activities, promote long-distance walking routes and encourage recycling.
Announcing the funding, Environment Minister Edwin Poots said the money will help protect Northern Ireland's landscape and habitats, while promoting health and well-bring.
“Prior to the carrier bag levy being introduced in 2013, 300 million single use bags were used each year in Northern Ireland, filling up landfills, suffocating our seas and damaging our habitats and wildlife," he said.
“The £2.2m generated from the levy will help socially-conscious organisations protect and enhance our environment and showcases my department’s commitment to find innovative and simple solutions that have big benefits.
"I want to see even more practical measures that will make a real difference and ensure we leave our environment in an even better shape than we found it.”
Now in its sixth year of operation, the carrier bag levy has so far raised £19m for environmental projects.
Criag McGuicken of Northern Ireland Environmental Link welcomed the funding announcement.
"The announcement of the Environment Fund is excellent news for everyone interested in the environment of Northern Ireland," he said.
"This funding provides essential support to our environmental NGOs, helping to deliver on-the-ground action, as well as allowing for long term planning. At a time when public concern and interest in environmental matters is at a high, this is welcome news.”
Green Party MLA Rachel Woods said community level projects are "vital" to empowering people to tackle climate breakdown and ecological crisis.
“However, we must be clear that plastic bags continue to cause harm to our environment. Plastic bags start out as fossil fuels and end up as deadly waste in landfills and the ocean," she added.
“Let’s have the ambition to eradicate plastic bags and plastic pollution and challenge big corporations with huge plastic footprints to lead the way.”
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, who was Environment Minister when the carrier bag levy was introduced, said: "It is only right that this money should be directed towards projects, which will improve environmental outcomes and play our role in tackling the climate crisis.
“I welcome this announcement and I look forward to working with Minister Poots and colleagues right across the Assembly to put this money to good use and tackle the climate emergency."