Shoppers can breathe a sigh of relief after the Environment Minister announced his decision not to double the carrier bag levy.
The 5p charge for bags, introduced in April, was due to rise to 10p next year but a reported 80 per cent reduction in plastic bag use since the levy came into effect has changed Mark H Durkan’s mind.
But the Minister said the levy will be extended to include reusable bags, which could now rise in price if retailers choose to pass the cost on to the customer.
Mr Durkan praised the public for their “responsible attitude” since the levy was introduced.
“Since the introduction of the five pence levy, the public have adopted a very responsible attitude and I commend them for that. I therefore will keep the levy at five pence for the foreseeable future. I will of course keep the situation under review.”
Extending the cost to reusable bags is a bid to prevent these bags becoming the new ‘throwaway’ bags, he added.
The Minister cited a recent local survey which highlighted that, despite the very substantial reduction in single use bag numbers, only 56 per cent of shoppers are frequently reusing their carrier bags.
He added: “Retailers will of course still be free to operate a ‘bag for life’ policy, whereby shops apply an initial charge for these more durable bags and then replace these bags for free when they are worn out. The levy won’t apply to these free replacements.
“This has always been, and continues to be, about protecting the environment and I look forward in coming weeks to announcing the first set of environmental projects which will be funded from money generated by the levy.
“Retailers have played a big part in making the single use bag levy such a success and I congratulate them on that. I urge business to work with the Department to ensure that the extension of the levy to low cost reusable bags next year builds on the success to date.”