First year: Carrier bag use in Northern Ireland drops by 71.8 per cent

Plastiktüte (Foto: ©Daniela B. /

Northern Ireland — The first set of official Carrier Bag Levy statistics covering the period 8 April 2013 to 31 March 2014 have been published today by the Department of the Environment. These indicate that the people of Northern Ireland have embraced the carrier bag levy by reducing their consumption of single use bags dramatically. Carrier bag usage figures for the first year of operation of the levy indicate that 84.5 million single use carrier bags were dispensed by retailers across Northern Ireland as opposed to around 300 million bags in the year prior to the levy. The 5p levy has delivered a reduction in bag numbers of 71.8% in its first year and generated net proceeds of £4.17million.

In year one of operations quarterly bag usage figures ranged from 19.4 million in Quarter One (April 2013 – June 2013), 21.6 million in Quarter 2 (July 2013 – September 2013) to 24.0 million in Quarter 3 (October 2013 – December 2013). This upward trend in quarters 2 and 3 could be attributed to seasonal variation over both the summer and Christmas periods when tourists and shoppers were caught out without a bag. Bag usage numbers reduced to 19.5 million bags in Quarter 4 (January 2014 – March 2014).

This evidence suggests that the introduction of the levy has reinforced earlier voluntary efforts by both retailers and shoppers to reduce substantially the negative environmental impact of carrier bag consumption by avoiding the unnecessary use of single use carrier bags. These previous efforts had already reduced single use bag numbers from an estimated 425 million bags in 2006/7. The figures are based on data supplied by 3,189 retailers.

Under the Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013, retailers are required to charge at least 5 pence for each single use carrier bag supplied new to customers and pay the net proceeds of the levy to the Department. The net proceeds of the levy for 2013/14 total £4.17 million (€5.24 million).

Source: Northern Ireland Execuutive, Department of the Environment