£1.3m plastic bag levy fund backs almost 150 projects

The 5p levy is to be extended to some reusable bags
The 5p levy is to be extended to some reusable bags

The reconstruction of a Bronze Age settlement in Co Tyrone is among almost 150 projects set to benefit from funds raised through the plastic bag levy this year.

The wattle dwelling and animal enclosure in Omagh, near the Beaghmore stone circles, will welcome visiting school groups from across the area.

A study by Queen’s University to monitor the red squirrel and pine marten populations across Northern Ireland has also been awarded part of £1.3 million which has been added to a funding pot financed by the 5p levy.

In Ballyclare, a cross-community initiative to provide “vertical” allotments, made using old doors and ladders, is also being supported through the Department of Environment’s Challenge Fund.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan unveiled the latest 145 projects to gain as he highlighted that the levy will be extended to cover reusable and single-use bags from January 19.

More than 250 projects have already been awarded money from the fund since the levy was introduced in 2013.

“We have an existing 5p levy on single use bags to prevent waste,” he said.

“That’s working. However, the evidence shows that that sales of cheap reusable bags have increased significantly. So we need to put a levy on them as well in order to further reduce waste. That is what I am doing from January 19th. A 5p levy will go on any bags priced less than 20p.”

The minister said the aim of the Challenge Fund was to inspire and finance local groups and schools to undertake projects that benefit their local environment.

“These innovative and exciting projects span a range of themes, from improving access to local heritage sites, transforming local wasteland, protection of wood and bog lands to helping schools improve their outdoor environmental teaching resources.

“For example, in Derry, we are supporting Creggan Country Park in their efforts to tackle environmental vandalism. Omagh will see a reconstructed Bronze Age settlement. A heritage trail of Eglinton and Claudy will produce artefacts and archaeological ruins. In Belfast we are supporting the residents of Skegoneill and Glandore to transform a derelict site into a vibrant urban garden, forming new relationships between the communities.”