"Free" single-use bags may soon be a thing of the past in Ireland. (NOTE: Bags aren’t really free--even though consumers aren’t charged upfront for shopping bags, retailers have passed on the costs to customers in the products being purchased.)
According to media reports here and here, Environment Minister of Northern Ireland, Alex Attwood, announced today that a five pence (roughly 8 cents) charge on single-use plastic and paper bags will be implemented beginning in April of next year. That is, provided that the proposal passes through the Northern Ireland assembly.
The price will double in April 2014 to ensure that the charge remains effective in reducing plastic bag distribution and waste. The April 2014 price would also become mandatory for some reusable bags.
Just south of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland was the first nation in the world to place a charge on plastic bags in 2002, which reduced initial bag consumption by 90%. Like the Northern Ireland bag charge, the bag price was raised after an initial period. According to the BBC, it is now 22 cents per bag. Unlike Northern Ireland’s bag charge, the bag law in the Republic of Ireland only applies to plastic bags.
It’s estimated that Northern Ireland uses 160 million plastic bags each year. The anticipated 4 million pounds brought in by the charge each year will be used for environmental purposes. Read more about Northern Ireland’s bag charge.
Closer to home, the City of Austin, TX will be taking public comment on its proposed bag ordinance this evening, while the Berkeley City Council will discuss a proposal to strengthen its bag ordinance tomorrow.
Visit our Campaign to End Single-Use Plastic Bags to find out more about this issue and what you can do to stop plastic bag pollution.