Belfast Telegraph

Levy cuts carrier bag numbers significantly – Durkan

Stormont Executive press release - Department of the Environment

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has today welcomed early indications of a significant reduction in the number of single use carrier bags dispensed in Northern Ireland.

Provisional Carrier Bag Levy figures for the first quarter indicate that 17.5million single use carrier bags were dispensed by retailers between 8 April and 30 June 2013.

Figures from several major supermarkets point towards a possible annual reduction of well in excess of 80% in those stores.

Due to factors such as seasonal variation, the Department of the Environment (DOE) is reluctant to use the data for a single quarter as a basis on which to predict the likely annual reduction for the entire retail sector. It intends to produce validated statistics, after the first full year of operation.

Although precise pre-levy bag use figures are not available, the Department estimates in the region of 300 million carrier bags were used in Northern Ireland last year.

Mark H Durkan said: “This is great news for the environment. Our streets and hedgerows, our fields and parks should no longer be places strewn with discarded bags. In many ways the public are ahead of government here, showing a great appetite for this legislation to be introduced. I commend people for their responsible attitude and willingness to come on board. They are making a personal contribution to addressing the threat of climate change and environmental damage. I very much urge them to keep up the momentum – keep reusing bags."

Under the Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 retailers are required to charge at least 5p for each single use carrier bag supplied new to customers and pay the net proceeds of the levy to the DOE. The first online returns from retailers to the Department, for the months April, May & June 2013, were submitted in July.

The Minister added: “Retailers have played a big part in introducing the legislation as smoothly as possible. I congratulate them on that. I urge any business dispensing new single use bags, that hasn’t already done so, to register now at The process only takes a few minutes and will enable retailers to make the required returns to the Department.”

Notes to editors:
1 Retailer returns to the Department of the Environment provisionally indicate that 17.5million single use carrier bags attracting the 5 pence levy were dispensed during the first quarter (8 April – 30 June 2013 inclusive).

2 It is not possible to make an accurate assessment of the overall reduction in single use carrier bag numbers based on figures for this first quarter. Account needs to be taken of seasonal variation and exempted and undeclared carrier bags. Validated statistics will be produced after the first full year of operation.

3 The Department’s latest estimate of the number of bags dispensed in 2012 (300 million) is derived from UK-wide Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) data for 2008. The data was adjusted to take account of reductions in bag use as a result of voluntary retailer measures since 2008.

4 Retailers who still have not registered with the Department – or have not made their return for the first quarter – should go to, click on the “retailer registration login” button and simply follow the onscreen instructions.

5 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

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