Plastic Bag Levy

The Plastic Bag Levy increased to 22 cent on Sunday 1st July 2007.

Since its introduction on 4th March 2002 the plastic bag levy had an immediate effect on consumer behaviour – with plastic bag per capita usage decreasing overnight from an estimated 328 bags to 21. Income from the levy has been increasing in the recent past.  Data from levies remitted and the results of the 2006 Census, would indicate that plastic bag usage rose to 31 bags per capita during the course of 2006.  It is vital that the levy’s positive effect on the environment is maintained.  To that effect the levy will be increased to 22 cent on Sunday 1st July 2007.  The aim of the increase is to reduce the per capita usage to the level achieved in 2002 or lower.  If this is achieved, the levy increase will not generate any additional revenue for the Environment Fund.

·                    Plastic Bag Regulations (S.I. No. 605 of 2001)

·                    Plastic Bag  (Amendment ) (No. 2) Regulations (S.I. 167 of 2007),  amending SI No. 605 of 2001              

Background to the Plastic Bag Levy

Plastic bag consumption increased alarmingly in Ireland in the 1990s. Retail outlets placed no limits on the amount of bags consumers could use when doing their shopping. One of the most significant side effects of this trend was the careless disposal of plastic bags by consumers after use – a significant proportion of which ended up as highly visible components of litter.  Furthermore, because of their composition, nearly all plastic bags do not degrade. Thus, in addition to being highly visible because of the volumes being carelessly disposed, they also became highly persistent pollutants in urban, rural and coastal settings. This trend was also undermining Ireland’s clean, green image on which the Irish tourism industry depends.

The primary purpose of the plastic bag levy is to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic bags by influencing consumer behaviour.  Since its introduction on the 4 March 2002 the levy has been an outstanding success.

Prior to the introduction of the levy it is estimated that over 1.2 billion plastic bags were dispensed free of charge at retail outlets annually, equating to roughly 328 bags per inhabitant per year.

The fall in the consumption of plastic bags has been considerable with the reduction being estimated at over 90%.  Our environment has also benefited – with a decrease in excess of 95% in plastic bag litter. Prior to the introduction of the Levy 5% of Litter nationally was attributed to plastic bags.
All levies are remitted into the Environment Fund.

Monitoring of Plastic Bag Litter

Figures for plastic bags as a percentage of litter pollution nationally are included in the annual National Litter Monitoring Statistics.

Biodegradable Bags

The levy on plastic shopping bags has a strong anti-litter emphasis.  The Regulations do not, therefore, distinguish between biodegradable plastic bags and other plastic bags. Biodegradable bags still take a considerable time to degrade and, while their use may be preferable in a final treatment situation, such bags will continue to form a visible nuisance for a significant period of time where discarded as litter. 

Alternatives to Disposable Plastic Shopping Bags

Alternatives to disposable plastic shopping bags, such as reusable boxes, and reusable bags are now available in many shops. The consumer has, by and large, changed to using these alternatives.  In the grocery sector disposable plastic bags have largely been replaced by reusable “long life” shopping bags.

Plastic shopping bags designed for re-use are exempt from the levy provided that the retailer charges at least 70 cent for the bag.

  • Ireland Structural and Investment Funds
  • EU European Regional Development Fund