Next month, a plastic bag levy will be introduced for the first time in the north in a bid to cut the environmental damage caused by the 250 million bags used here every year.
Ten civil service posts are to be based in Derry to administer the plastic bag tax on behalf of the Department of the Environment.
Today, the DOE answer the most frequently asked questions about the soon to be introduced tax....
What is the Carrier Bag Levy?
It is a new environmental measure that requires shops or other retail outlets in Northern Ireland to charge for each new single use carrier bag they dispense to customers.
When is the levy being brought in?
On 8 April 2013.
Why is it being brought in?
At the moment we are using around 250 million carrier bags each year in Northern Ireland and we need to cut that number dramatically to reduce environmental damage. The evidence from other countries shows that a bag levy is a very effective way of doing this.
How much will the levy be?
It will be 5p for each new single use bag. However individual retailers can decide to charge more than that.
Where is the money going to and what will it be used for?
Retailers must pay the proceeds of the 5p levy to the DOE. The money will be used to help fund environmental programmes and activities.
What sort of bags will the levy apply to?
The levy applies to most new single use bags distributed to shoppers to carry their shopping – regardless of the material from which the bag is made. There are some exemptions, as outlined below.
Will the levy apply to just single use plastic bags?
No. The levy will also apply to single use bags made from paper and natural materials such as starch.
Where will the levy be charged?
The levy will be charged in all shops and retail outlets that dispense new single use bags – that includes supermarkets, convenience stores, clothes and shoe shops, electrical retailers, grocery stores, off licences, newsagents and hardware stores.
What about online shopping?
If you buy online from a retailer distributing the goods from premises within Northern Ireland (e.g. grocery shopping), then the single use bags used to deliver your goods will be liable for the charge, just as if you’d bought them in the shop. If you purchase goods from companies delivering from outside Northern Ireland, then the levy will not apply.
Can shoppers avoid paying the levy?
Yes, by always bringing their own bags when they go shopping.
Can the retailer pay the levy themselves and not charge the customer for bags?
No, the regulations state that the shop must pass the charge on to their customers. This is to encourage the public to start bringing and reusing their bags when shopping.
Are there any circumstances when the levy won’t apply?
Yes, the following list outlines when a charge won’t apply. Remember, if you always bring your own bags you will never have to pay the levy.
· Any bag that is manufactured for reuse
· Any carrier bag that has been previously used (eg previously used bags provided by charity shops)
· Some small paper and small plastic bags (eg for pick and mix, greeting cards, cough mixture etc).
· Bags used to hold hot food and hot drinks that are to be consumed away from the premises.
· Any bag used solely to take away prescribed goods from a pharmacy.
· Bags that are solely used to contain packaged uncooked meat, poultry or fish, as long as they do not exceed specified maximum dimensions.
· Any bag used solely to contain unwrapped or partially unwrapped food for human or animal consumption (eg loose fruit and vegetables, bread and other baked items).
· Any bag used solely to contain loose seeds or bulbs (eg from a Garden Centre), or items that are contaminated by soil (eg vegetables or pot plants).
· Any bag used solely to contain unwrapped or partially unwrapped axes, knives, axes or blades.
· Bags used to contain any aquatic animal in water (eg fish from a pet shop).
· Bags used to contain items that have not been purchased (eg free catalogues, free gifts or promotional items).
· Any sized bags used to contain purchases in restricted passenger areas of airports, and on board ships, trains, aircraft, coaches and buses.