By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Shoppers are struggling to come to terms this week with shopping without plastic bags — unless they are willing to pay a new 15 cents (12 old pence) levy on each bag.
The “plastax” is part of a government environmental move to get rid of the unsightly scourge of wind-blown plastic bags that litter most of the countryside. An estimated 1.3 billion bags had been handed out by shops and supermarkets every year and a lot of them end up blowing along streets or caught in trees or fences. Many environmentalists want an outright ban on the bags.
A normal weekly shopping trip to the supermarket would involve taking home 10 to 12 plastic bags. As an alternative, shops and supermarkets are using paper bags instead and selling reusable plastic shopping bags at anything from a euro each upwards.
Environment Minister Noel Dempsey, who introduced the levy on Monday, said it was the first of its kind.
“It’s designed to get people to make more environmentally friendly choices by encouraging them to use reusable bags. The purpose of the levy is to change consumer behavior and achieve a significant reduction in the use of plastic shopping bags, thereby reducing the number of plastic bags which end up as litter.
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“Retailers must charge the 15 cent levy for each bag and this must be itemized separately on receipts. Retailers will then have to pay the levies collected to the Revenue Commissioners.”
It is hoped the levy will cut the number of plastic bags being issued by 40 percent in the first year.
The money will be collected by the Revenue Commissioners but won’t just disappear into central Government funds.
Dempsey said the proceeds from the levy will be paid into the Environment Fund and used to fund various litter, waste management and other environmental initiatives.
“In particular, funding will be made available to assist local authorities in carrying out enforcement across the whole range of environmental legislation,” he said.