Press Release

Committee Scrutinises Proposed New Increases in Carrier Bag Charges

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Friday, 14 June 2013

Reference: ENV 14/12/13

The Committee for the Environment is now considering the proposed Carrier Bags Bill, which will apply charges to a wider range of carrier bags and increase the amount of the charge.

Legislation to charge a levy for carrier bags came into effect in April 2013, when a 5 pence charge was introduced for single-use carrier bags. The proposed Carrier Bags Bill will introduce a 10 pence charge for all single-use carrier bags, as well as for the cheaper versions of reusable carrier bags.

Committee Chairperson Anna Lo said: "Discarded plastic bags can cause real problems for the environment: many end up in landfill and on beaches, causing pollution and problems for wildlife. By increasing the cost of cheaper reusable bags, the Department hopes that shoppers will be more likely to use them again and again rather than treat them as disposable or throwaway.

"While the Committee supports efforts to cut plastic bag usage, it wants to carefully consider the potential consequences of any increase in charges. We want to see how consumers and businesses will be affected. In particular, we will pay close attention to the impact on small retailers, who are worried that an increased charge will put consumers off purchasing just one or two items at a time or making an unplanned purchase, and also about the administration involved. In all this, communication with the public will be vital, and the new pricing arrangements must be made very clear to shoppers.

Ms Lo concluded: "The Committee is committed to encouraging more sustainable shopping habits. Over the coming months, we will scrutinise this legislation to ensure that it strikes a balance between protecting the environment and taking account of the needs of consumers and businesses. We look forward to a robust engagement with the public and stakeholders on the proposals in the Bill."


Notes to Editors:

The Department of the Environment has taken a phased approach to the implementation of charging. The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 provide for the first phase of charging arrangements — the introduction of a minimum charge on single use carrier bags. With effect from 8 April 2013, sellers in Northern Ireland must, when applicable, charge customers at least 5 pence for each new single use carrier bag.

This Bill provides for the second phase of charging arrangements. Its principal purpose is to amend the 2008 Act to allow the charging requirement to be applied to a wider variety of carrier bags — and to enable these bags to be defined by reference to their price. This will allow the Department to make regulations which will apply the charge to the cheaper versions of reusable bags — as well as to single use bags.

The Bill can be found here.

Committee Membership:
Ms Anna Lo MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Simon Hamilton MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Sydney Anderson MLA
Mr Cathal Boylan MLA
Mr Colum Eastwood MLA
Mr Tom Elliott MLA
Mr Dolores Kelly MLA
Mr Barry McElduff MLA
Mr Ian Milne MLA
Lord Morrow MLA
Mr Peter Weir MLA

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