NI retailers slam ‘excessive’ carrier bag levy increase

NI retailers slam ‘excessive’ carrier bag levy increase

Retailers in Northern Ireland have responded with anger after DAERA minister Edwin Poots announced an increase of the carrier bag levy from 5p to 25p.

Giving an Oral Statement to the Assembly on Northern Ireland’s first overarching Environment Strategy. Mr Poots said the measure would come in on April 1 next year.

He also announced an extension to the existing pricing threshold, which will see all bags priced at £5 or less subject to the levy, irrespective of the material they are made from.

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “We absolutely share Ministers Poots’ objective of less plastic being in circulation and continuing to litter our streets. Retail NI members have led the way in in reducing plastic packaging and promoting bag for life options”

“Northern Ireland already has one of the most extensive carrier bag levies in the UK, covering single use and plastic which has led to a reduction in Carrier Bag usage by 73.2% (1.5 billion bags). Retail NI argued for the current 5p charge to be increased to a more realistic figure of 10p in line with what is being proposed in England and Scotland”

“We believe this excessive 500% increase will disproportionately impact on low-income families at time of huge economic turmoil with Covid-19, high Energy Bills and increases in National Insurance”

“Retail NI have asked for an immediate meeting with the Minister to discuss these proposals.”

Mr Poots told the Assembly that the existing 5p Carrier Bag Levy had been successful in removing more than 1.7 billion bags from circulation, but he was aware that a significant number of retailers in NI are selling large volumes of heavy duty bags at a cost of 20p or more each.

“These are now flooding the market and are not being reused, with harmful environmental consequences. This announcement today will go some way towards making Northern Ireland a cleaner and more pleasant place in which to live, by ensuring that proceeds from the Levy are re-invested in supporting the wider NI environmental sector,” he said.

“By continuing to work together we can help meet the New Decade, New Approach commitment on eliminating plastic pollution, this also underpins the draft Green Growth Strategy for Northern Ireland, which I recently launched on behalf of the NI Executive.

“It is unacceptable that far too much plastic ends up as pollution in our environment or waste in our landfills. My Department will continue to work hard on the issue of the circular economy, eliminating plastic pollution and tackling throwaway culture. With over five trillion single use plastic bags used worldwide every year and plastic waste set to quadruple by 2050, I would encourage everyone to play their part locally and re-use bags whenever they can.”

Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful welcomes the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots’ announcement that Northern Ireland’s carrier bag levy will rise to 25p next April.

“This is a brave move in the fight against plastic pollution, one that KNIB has been pushing Stormont on for some time. This move will hopefully deter throw away culture and consumer dependency on single use plastics and instead encourage consumers to be more sustainably-minded and reuse shopping bags.

“The announcement comes in the midst of COP26 which has served as an excellent platform to us all to acknowledge that the environmental challenges that face us are very real and immediate. If we all commit to small changes now, such as reusing plastic bags or not purchasing them at all, it will have a hugely positive impact.”