Official carrier bag statistics reveal that the 5p levy has delivered a 69.5 per cent reduction in bags being used since its introduction in April 2013.
A total of 208.5 million fewer single use carrier bags have been dispensed by retailers across Northern Ireland in 2014-15 as compared with two years ago.
The levy has generated £4.6million in receipts.
Mark H Durkan, speaking during a visit to Woodland Trust, Glenshane Road Co. Derry said: “The response from shoppers again has been very positive and retailers continue to rise to the challenge. I commend them for that.
“I have always pledged that the levy on bags would be ploughed back into the environment and for the benefit of everyone. During the past year, I have ensured that money from the bag levy has gone back into the community through environmental projects. I have visited many of these projects and have been inspired by the great work being done. People pay the levy and I will continue to ensure that people get the benefit of the levy.
“The levy has also enabled me to fund 21 environmental NGOs and landscape management bodies through the Natural Environment Fund. Given the acute economic situation that I faced, there would have been no money in the DOE Budget for this sector.
“The Woodland Trust exemplifies this. It has, for example, through its Brackfield Wood project, planted 40,000 native trees on 53 acres of agricultural land in a Commemorative Wood to honour the memory of the 40,000 Irish people from across this island who made the ultimate sacrifice in the two world wars. Between now and 2018 it intends to engage groups and individuals in this initiative.”