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Waste Management: Plastic bag levy

Plastic Bag Levy



Plastic bag levy – What is the Plastic Bag Levy?

In accordance with the polluter pays principle, environmental levies and other forms of environmental taxation/subsidies are being increasingly used internationally to assist in the achievement of environmental objectives. The Irish plastic bag levy,  originally introduced on 4 March 2002 is a good example of the practical application of an environmental tax.  The legislation was recently ammended. It now works as a 22 cent tax charged by retailers to consumers who chose to avail of a plastic carrier bag when making purchases.

Is there any exemptions to the plastic bag levy?

The following exemptions apply:

•  plastic bags solely used to contain fresh fish, meat and poultry, provided that the bags are not greater in dimension than 225mm in width (exclusive of any gussets), by 345mm in depth (inclusive of any gussets), by 450mm in length (inclusive of any handles),

(ii) plastic bags solely used to contain packaged (including in another plastic bag) fish, meat or poultry products, provided that the bags do not exceed the dimensions indicated at (i) above,

•  plastic bags solely used to contain non-packaged (loose) fruit, nuts or vegetables, confectionery (including unwrapped bread), dairy products, cooked food (whether cold or hot) and ice, provided that the bags do not exceed the dimensions indicated at (i) above.

If other products are placed in these bags, then the retailer must charge the levy to the consumer.

“Bags for life” / bags designed for reuse

The Regulations further provide that plastic bags designed for reuse, and which are sold to customers for a sum of not less than 70 cent each, are exempted from the levy. The levy will not be charged on free replacements of such bags.

What Difference has the levy made?

Prior to the introduction of the levy, an estimated 1.26 billion plastic bags were dispensed at retail outlets annually. This equated to a consumption rate of circa 340 plastic bags per inhabitant per year. Since the introduction of the levy, consumption of plastic bags has decreased to an estimated 80 million bags per year, equating to approximately 20 bags per inhabitant per year. This equates to a circa 95% reduction in the dispensing of plastic bags to consumers at retail outlets.

The levy was primarily an anti-litter initiative. A secondary objective was to influence positive change in consumer shopping behaviour. Pre its introduction, plastic bags were a highly visible and prevalent form of nuisance litter. This no longer applies. Similar to the reduction in plastic bag consumption, there has been a corresponding 95% reduction in the litter problems associated with plastic bags.

Where do the funds from the plastic bag levy go?

Levy proceeds accrue to the Environment Fund and are used exclusively in funding waste recycling, litter and other beneficial environmental initiatives i.e.

The establishment of local authority waste recovery infrastructure (bring banks, civic amenity recycling centres, material recovery facilities).

Stepped-up enforcement of waste legislation by local authorities.

The ongoing operational costs of recycling facilities (bring banks, civic amenity recycling centres).

Environmental awareness campaigns, including the current ‘Race against Waste' TV campaign and local authority anti-litter awareness campaigns.

In the first three years of its implementation, the levy has generated just under €38m in proceeds to date – averaging at €1m per month since its introduction.

What should the Consumers do to avoid paying the levy?

Customers should remember to bring reusable bags for all grocery, hardware and clothes shopping.

What role do Mayo County Council have in enforcing the Plastic Bag Levy Regulations?

Mayo County Council's Environment Enforcement Staff carry out ongoing inspections with retailers throughout the County to ensure compliance with the law.

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