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// NOI Bag tax hits all single use carrier bags
Bag tax aims to tackle environmental ‘scourge'
A LEADING environmental charity has welcomed news that a carrier bag tax is to be introduced in Northern Ireland next year.
The initial 5p levy on single-use carrier bags, due to commence in April 2013, will then double to 10p in 2014 when a 10p levy on the more durable multi-use shopping bags will also be brought in, Environment Minister Alex Attwood has said.
All single-use bags - including plastic, paper and "plant based material" bags - will be liable for the new tax.
Northern Ireland will become the second UK region to implement such measures, following Wales' lead last year.
Chris Allen, of Tidy NI, says he hopes the levy will lead to a change in behaviour among shoppers.
"We support the levy. There is no real need to have so many plastic bags in circulation. To use them once and then throw them away is an unforgivable waste of resources," he said.
"We do four [litter] surveys a year across eight borough council areas which means they cover about one-third of the country. We found plastic bags on 13 per cent of the streets last year. And that doesn't include the bags caught in trees and hedges - we just count those on the actual ground.
"This year, we found plastic bags on just over 10 per cent, so it's gone down a little bit. However, there was an increase in the amount of litter overall."
A similar, single-use carrier bag levy has been operating in the Republic of Ireland since 2002.
Mr Attwood said he was setting the 5p rate in the first year to allow customers time to adjust to the concept.
"There is no doubt that carrier bags are a scourge on the environment," said the SDLP minister.
"Evidence from other countries demonstrates that a bag levy is a simple and effective means to reduce substantially the negative environmental impact of carrier bag consumption.
"A proposed 10p levy on single-use carrier bags and lower-cost reusable carrier bags can bring about significant environmental improvement."
Mr Attwood added: "However I recognise that consumers will need time to change their behaviour and adjust to bringing their own bags when they shop. I therefore propose to discount the charge to 5p in the first year, when the levy will only apply to single-use carrier bags. This will ensure a phased approach to charging."
Administration of the scheme will be based in Londonderry and is set to see 10 civil servant posts relocate to the city as a consequence.
Mr Attwood needs the Assembly to rubber stamp the proposals before they become law. If the scheme proceeds as planned the 5p tax will come into effect in April 2013.
Information on arrangements for the implementation of the levy can be accessed on www.rethinkwasteni.org/carrierbaglevy.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 30/1/2012