Northern Ireland

Plastic bag use continues to fall in Northern Ireland

Shopper with re-usable bag
Image caption A 5p levy on single use carrier bags was introduced in Northern Ireland in April 2013

Plastic bag use is continuing to fall in Northern Ireland, according to the latest figures from the waste prevention charity, Wrap.

A levy on single-use carrier bags was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2013.

The year before the 5p charge was imposed, 190 million carrier bags were issued by NI supermarkets.

Last year, that had fallen to 30 million - a 42.6% annual reduction following a previous drop of 71%, after the carrier bag charge was introduced.

Levy

Retailers pay the net proceeds of the levy to the Department of Environment at Stormont.

Earlier this year, 21 environmental groups that had their budgets slashed as part of government cutbacks received a share of a £1.25m fund raised by plastic bag charges.

The Northern Ireland usage figures are in sharp contrast to England, where the number of single-use bags from supermarkets rose from 7.4 billion in 2013 to just over 7.6 billion.

From October large shops in England will have to charge for plastic bags.

In Scotland, which brought in a levy last year, there was an 18.3% decrease in the number of plastic bags handed out by retailers.

There was a 5.2% increase in Wales last year, but the number of bags handed out has fallen by 78.2% since 2010. A charge was introduced in October 2011.

Image caption Chris Allen said the problems posed by plastic bag litter had not disappeared

The latest drop in Northern Ireland has been welcomed, but campaigners say there are still too many littering the landscape.

Chris Allen, from the environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said discarded bags can also harm wildlife.

"When they wash up on the shore, you might get sheep that might graze on them by mistake and they might end up dying," he said.

He also reminded people that even though plastic bag litter had reduced, the problem had not disappeared.

"There is a certain element of 'out of sight, out of mind' to it. It's a big sea, it's a big beach, one plastic bag isn't going to hurt but those inconsiderate people don't think of all the other plastic bags they're adding to," Mr Allen said.

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