The 15 cents per bag levy was brought in on March 4 last year to cut down on the estimated 1.2 billion free plastic bags — or about 300 per person per year — that had previously been given out by shops.
The tax has led to a major changeover by people to doing their shopping with reusable bags.
“The environmental levy on plastic bags has had a dramatic impact on our consumption of plastic bags and on the problem of visual litter.
“The initiative won the widespread support of the public and caught the imagination of people in many countries around the world,” Cullen said. “Most retailers report a reduction of over 90 percent in the consumption of disposable plastic bag’s since the levy’s introduction.”
The tax brought in euro 9.6 million in its first year. The money goes to a special fund to support waste management and other environment initiatives.
“While most retailers are applying the levy correctly, it is clear that a small number are continuing to ignore or misapply the provisions of the regulations which impose the levy,” Cullen said.
The minister warned that any shops caught breaking the law are liable to a fine that could range from euro 1,905 to euro 12.7 million or a prison sentence of between one or 10 years.
Shops continuing to defy the regulations also face daily fines of between euro 254 and euro 127,000 euros per day.