IRELAND: Tax on plastic carrier bags proposed

The Irish Environment Ministry has proposed a tax of euros 0.04 (I£0.03) on plastic carrier bags in an effort reduce their use. The tax would be paid by suppliers.

An estimated 1.2 billion plastic bags are distributed annually in Ireland and Noel Dempsey, Minister for the Environment and Local Government, has expressed his firm desire for a reduction in their numbers. Announcing a two-month consultation period on the proposed tax, Dempsey said: “The day of the plastic bag is coming towards an end. Let there be no mistake: we mean to act.”

A study looking at options for plastic bag reduction was carried out by Cork-based environmental consultancy Fehily Timoney & Company. The study acknowledges that a tax levied on suppliers would be less effective in reducing the number of plastic bags than a point-of-sale tax paid by consumers. However, the study recommends a supplier tax because it would be “administratively simpler”.

Increasingly, plastic bags are imported to Ireland, however, there remain four domestic producers of plastic bags, employing 177 people.

The Fehily Timoney study also recommends further research on the percentage of plastic bags ending up as litter (as opposed to ending up in landfill sites). The study points out that efforts by “retailers to encourage the use of alternatives to the free plastic shopping bag have not been particularly successful to date – mainly due to consumer apathy” and that “opportunities for recycling recovered quantities of plastic shopping bags are currently limited in Ireland due to a lack of infrastructure both in terms of collection and processing”.

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