What do you think of the proposed charges for single use carrier bags?

The Assembly passed the Single Use Carrier Bags Act (Northern Ireland) in 2011 following a decision by the Northern Ireland Executive to introduce a charge for single use carrier bags in Northern Ireland.

The Department for the Environment (DOE) has responsibility for implementing this Act and it is currently consulting on how it plans to do this.  You can read the draft proposals http://www.doeni.gov.uk/www.doeni.gov.uk/waste in full, or below is a brief overview.

To help the Committee form its views and its response to the Department on its proposals we would like to hear your views.  Please let us know your thoughts by responding to the questions at the end of this blog using our Comment box.
Committee overview of DOE proposals

Phase 1 would use the current Single Use Carrier Bags Act to introduce a 5 pence levy on single use carrier bags by April 2013. The legislation requires that sellers must pass the cost of the levy onto their customers and must forward the revenue generated to the DOE.

The proposals are that the charge should apply to all single use carrier bags – not just plastic. This means the charge would apply to single use carrier bags made of paper and plant-based material or natural starch.  

There will be some exemptions. DOE is proposing to follow the Welsh model which is based on grounds such as patient confidentiality (e.g. prescription bags), hygiene, food safety and the protection of goods and consumers. It also allows exemptions for very small bags, mail order packaging and previously used bags.  You can read what these are here: http://www.carrierbagchargewales.gov.uk/retailers/bagsnotincluded/?lang=en

Phase 2 would see an increase in the levy on single use carrier bags to 10 pence per bag from April 2014.  It also would see this charge extended to include low cost reusable bags.

DOE justifies this extension on environmental grounds to avoid lower cost reusable bags becoming a replacement for single use bags once the levy increases to 10p. The basis for this is the view that environmental impact of these bags being used once and thrown away would be greater than that of single use bags because they are typically made of heavier gauge material.


The primary objective of the Committee is to ensure that all measures proposed by DOE are focused solely on the objective of reducing environmental impact and plans to have a debate on this very issue in the coming weeks.

In principle, the Committee has accepted the need for a levy and is not considering arguments that the levy should not be introduced. However it is still open to suggestions as to what type of bags the charge is applied to, exemptions, and cost.

For example: is applying the levy to bags made of natural materials consistent with the principle of reducing the environmental impact of single use bags?

Is extending the levy to other single use bags, such as bin liners and nappy bags, beneficial to reducing environmental damage?


To help the Committee with its response to the Department’s Consultation, it wants to hear your views.  Your views may also feed into the Committee’s contribution to its debate later this month on ensuring all DOE measures focus on the objective of reducing environmental impact.

Thinking solely in terms of reducing environmental impact, please let us know your thoughts on the following, using our Comment box below.  Please aim to keep your response to 500 words.

Phase 1

  • Is 5 pence the right amount for a levy on single use carrier bags from April 2013?

  • Should the levy apply to single use carrier bags made of paper?

  • Should the levy apply to single use carrier bags made of natural materials (e.g. plants / starch)?

  • Are the Welsh exemptions appropriate for Northern Ireland? If not, how should they be changed?

  • Should some retailers be exempt from the levy? If so, on what grounds?

Phase 2

  • Should the levy remain at 5 pence or should it be increased to 10 pence in April 2014? What factors, if any, should be taken into account in relation to an increase in the levy?

  • Should the levy be extended to low cost reusable bags?

  • Should the levy be extended to different types of single use bag (e.g. bin liners, nappy bags)?

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