Charges for carrier bags may need to be hiked, say environmentalists

Single-use carrier bags come with a 5p charge
Single-use carrier bags come with a 5p charge

The current 5p charge for plastic bags in Northern Ireland may need to be increased if the usage of throw-away bags goes up over time, an environmental group has said.

Friends of the Earth called on the Environment Minister to keep examining the number of carrier bags being given out and be prepared to increase the charge if it seems that it is no longer a “deterrent”.

Declan Allison, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “The single-use bag levy appears to have had a significant impact on the use of such bags.

“The minister should keep a close eye on the figures to see if people begin to get used to the charge – and bag usage begins to go up again. The charge may need to be increased in the not-too-distant future in order to maintain the deterrent effect.

“The minister should now turn his attention to other pressing waste issues, such as packaging waste, built-in obsolescence, and maximising recycling rates.

“There is also the outstanding issue of the £4 million per year that was deducted from his department’s budget to pay for the Green New Deal. That project never went ahead, so Mr Durkan should be lobbying to have the deducted funds returned.”

Earlier this year, TUV leader Jim Allister attempted to change Stormont legislation to exclude paper bags from the charge.

The DUP supported his amendment but it fell as nationalist MLAs and the UUP opposed the change.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan strongly opposed the proposal, arguing that although paper bags are biodegradable, they are more harmful to the environment because of the process behind their manufacture and higher transport costs.