Pressure mounts for plastics landfill ban as NI joins bag tax brigade

Northern Ireland has become the latest region within the British Isles to introduce a levy on disposable carrier bags as the European Commission draws up plans to clamp down on their use.

The tax, in which retailers across Northern Ireland will charge upwards of five pence for each single use plastic bag, forms part of the Government’s drive to reduce the 250 million carrier bags distributed in the country each year.

Northern Ireland joins Wales and Ireland in charging for their use, and there are plans in Scotland to introduce a similar measure – a consultation on this issue is already well underway.

England now faces mounting pressure to reconsider its stance on mandatory charging, especially in light of comments made by the European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik last week that the Commission is drawing up plans to tackle this waste stream.

Last month it published a Green Paper on plastic waste to promote better reuse and recycling – the consultation exercise will feed into further policy action next years as part of a broader waste policy review.

“Following on from this, we are working on a proposal on reducing the use of plastic bags,” Potočnik confirmed.

One suggestion being considered is to phase out the landfilling of plastics, although an outright ban would violate the packaging waste directive and some manufacturers have already taken a stand against such a proposal.

Meanwhile the EU executive is pursuing a separate regulatory proposal on the issue of single use plastic bags.

Maxine Perella

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