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 17.5 million 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 per cent 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 http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/baglevy. The process only takes a few minutes and will enable retailers to make the required returns to the Department.”