Independent Media Centre Ireland

Time to Double the Plastic Bag Tax

category national | environment | news report author Monday March 06, 2006 14:32author by Friends of the Earthauthor email info at foe dot ieauthor address 9 Upper Mount Street, Dublin 2author phone 01-6394652

Effect is wearing off on fourth anniversary

Friends of the Earth has called for the 15c levy on plastic bags to be doubled. On the the fourth anniversary of its introduction analysis of Department of the Environment figures shows the number of bags being bought is rising steadily. After the plastic bag tax was introduced on 4th March 2002 the number of bags being put into circulation fell dramatically with visible environmental benefits. In the first year after the introduction of the 15c levy just under 90 million bags were bought by the public and this fell to less than 85 million in 2003. But since then the number has been on the up again, to 100 million in 2004 and at least 113 million in 2005, a rise of over a third.

Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan, said:

"The effect of the plastic bag tax is gradually wearing off. Four years ago the 15c price tag made people think twice. They began bringing their own bags to the shops. Now it seems more and more people are just paying the tax. The plastic bag levy has been a public policy success story. The best way to protect that success is to restore that original shock value by doubling the tax."

As well as rising sales of plastic bags the Minister of the Envionment has admitted that an increasing number of bags are being given away by retailers in breach of the regulations. In a press statement on Monday last Dick Roche said “From representations I have received there would appear to be some anecdotal evidence of slippage in application of the levy. I have asked my Department to write to local authorities asking them to carry out inspections of retail outlets with a view to improving current practices in relation to the implementation of the Plastic Bag Levy Regulations”.

Oisin Coghlan commented "The best way to re-focus the minds of retailers and consumers on the importance of the tax is to increase it substantially. This is one of the few taxes you are not supposed to pay, you are supposed to avoid it. The tax was designed to change behaviour not raise revenue yet the amount of money flowing to government from the levy has now passed 50 million euro. There's a danger they will get used to it. Government needs to rasie the tax enough to put people off paying it again."

The figures are as follows:

Levy revenue in €m

2002 Q1 -- Q2 3.9 Q3 3.2 Q4 3.2 = 10.3m euro
2003 Q1 3.1 Q2 3.1 Q3 3.2 Q4 3.3 = 12.7m euro
2004 Q1 3.2 Q2 3.3 Q3 3.5 Q4 5.0 = 15.0m euro
2005 Q1 4.0 Q2 4.0 Q3 4.4 Q4 2.6 = 17.0m euro

Bags purchased
2002 91.6 million
2003 84.7 million
2004 100.0 million
2005 113.6 million

year after intro (m euro) 13.4
year after intro (m bags) 89.3

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Comments (25 of 25)

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author by anti-bag-taxpublication date Mon Mar 06, 2006 15:38author address author phone

This is all ring-fencing plastic bags for privitisation and profit they introduce a stelath tax and and the price goes up and up.

author by green bottle on the wallpublication date Mon Mar 06, 2006 15:48author address author phone

plastic bags dont belong to the people (unless you count the thousands stuck in the trees and shrubs of public areas, never biodegrading - you can keep those), they're manufactured by private plastics companies. they're already "privatised". people should have to pay 50 cents, not 15 cents, if they're too lazy to carry the stuff in their arms or forget to remember to bring a bag with them when they go shopping. the money should then be ringfenced for environmental cleanups.

fair play to the friends of the earth and the greens for calling for this. hopefully they'll call for a bottle bill as well - cash back on cans, glass and plastic bottles. instant results of near 100% recycling of these materials, when people know they can get cash back for them, they collect them up and then bring them to their nearest depot. various progresssive local authorities all around the world have brought in legislation which deals with this.

you should really think about what you're saying before you post, instead of just squeezing out some idiotic pseudo-anarchic rubbish about privatisation and taxation which doesnt really make any sense.

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author by John - dunaree2000publication date Mon Mar 06, 2006 15:50author address author phone

This is one of the few suggestions that the FOE has ever made that is worthy of support. Excellent idea and all parties should support it. Clearly, its hideous having plastic bags lying around, likewise soft drink cans etc. We should have a similar tax on those. However, I wonder why other types of 'litter' are tolerated. I'm thinking here of graffitti, which is nothing more than vertical litter. There seems to be no similar campaign against it because 99 per cent of it is done by left-wing and anarchist groups. Virtually every building in Dublin is now defaced with hideously ugly graffitti. Not just Dublin. I was in Florence recently and its even worse there. Almost all of it is of the leftist or anarchist variety. You don't see the walls of beautiful buildings defaced with slogans such as 'vote FF', 'Enda Kenny for Taoiseach', 'F*ck Lenin' or 'make socialism history'. I suggest you campaign against graffitti with the same vigour that you campaign against litter. Then maybe people will take you more seriously. What incentive is there to keep pavements clean and tidy if the walls of buildings are uglified in this way?

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Mon Mar 06, 2006 16:04author address author phone

The vast majority of plastic does not arrive in the shape of plastic bags. Everything is wrapped in plastic. The only thing this extra tax restricts is the 'consumer' and it in no way influences the production of plastic products, period. Capitalists who coincidently over produce, market and then pollute the planet with plastic are not penalised in any shape or form whatsoever. One must remember, that a bag must firstly exist before it can be purchased.

The only thing this bag tax has done is as far as rubbish production is concerned, is that it has raised the price of packaging overall. We artificially added to the value of plastic packaging and this artificially inflated the price of biodegradable alternatives. This idea that taxing the product might promote a reduction in the manufacture of plastic, is downright stupid. Taxing this product just creates more wealth and guarantees that it will only be spread throughout the rich.

Oisin Coghlan needs to take his head outta his or somebody else's (capitalist) arse.

Wanna stop the over production of plastic?

Hit the producers, not the victims. And focusing on the problem itself, rather than promoting practices that avoid confronting the issue or indeed practices that confuse the issue and possible solutions, might be an idea, in as far as credibility is concerned.

The government has enough goons working to screw the little guy on its behalf.

author by nerrawpublication date Mon Mar 06, 2006 17:00author address author phone

Why must it be your wrong I'm right with the likes of Sean Ryan.

The plastic bag tax was and continues to be a success. Go to a supermarket anyday of teh week and you'll see hundred of people with their own re-usable bags.

But I agree that companies need to be penalised for using plastic. I see shrink wrapped apples, shrink wrapped apples for god sake!, carrots, peppers all covered in plastic.

The Govt as usual did it half arsed. Yes they were right with the bag tax for the public but they should've done the same for businesses. Of course they just would've added the tax to the consumer.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Mon Mar 06, 2006 17:47author address author phone

Well despite hinting that my view is incorrect you still agreed with everything I said.

You ought to be in politics.

just because people own more packaging than ever, does not prove a reduction in the production of plastic bags has taken place. Admittedly the tax at first made plastic an issue in the public consciousness. But as usual time is a great equaliser. The year it was introduced was the first falloff in bag consumption. But the year after this, consumption kicked back in with a vengence.

Doubling the tax now, might give a booster shock and put the issue back into people's minds. But as can be seen from this model already. This is a short term effect. In the long term it does not work.

Besides this. Plastic should be the issue. Not plastic bags. Plastic bags are the equivealent of spam and misdirect the idea of the problem itself. People cut down on the ammount of bags they buy and think they've helped the envoirnment. Yet we know this tax thingy only functions for a year before it's forgotten again. Bag production is not influenced at all.

Again, taxing the product does make the issue more visible to the consumer. But its a shortlived experience. And as evidenced by your own example of shrink wrapped apples, it clouds the issue.

Opinions are always going to be "I'm right you're wrong." Show me the error of my ways and I'll change. I'm opinionated, true. But I don't claim infallibility.

author by Better ideapublication date Tue Mar 07, 2006 09:18author address author phone

The bag tax was never meant as anything other than a money making scam. You seriously think the government is concerned about the environment? The same government pushing incineration so hard. It has been noted that the drop in the use of plastics bags has correspoded witha rise in the sales of small bin liners (which is what a lot of people, myself included, used the bags for when they were finished carrying things in them), so it's debateable how much less plastic is actually going into landfills.
A far better idea (and I've said this before) would have been to ban the use of non-biodegradable bags. Obviously these would cost more to produce than the current variety but I strongly doubt that it would amount to 15c a bag. This would actually do something for the environment and give a foothold to a biodradable plastics industry (and in a few years to non-biodegradale ban could be extented to bin liners and even packaging).
FOE would do better looking at a proposal like this rather than calling for an extra tax on people that will do NO BLOODY GOOD WHATSOEVER. Shame on FOE for taking the path of least resistance on this. It wouldn't surpirse me in the least if this statement from them goes to governement witha suggetion that FOE get a portion of the extra tax money raised.

author by Punksterpublication date Tue Mar 07, 2006 13:38author address author phone

I think a lot of you conspiracy theorists are missing the main point here. (FOE getting a cut from the government? Yeah, and the world is run by lizards).
The tax is NOT supposed to be paid. You're supposed to bring your own bag with you and NOT buy a plastic bag. Therefore, nobody is getting screwed unless they're careless enough to go shopping without their own bags.
Doesn't anyone remember what the Irish countryside looked like before the introduction of the plastic bag levy? Covered in plastic bags.
Don't be such reactionaries and use your common sense.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Tue Mar 07, 2006 13:56author address author phone

It would offer a much better incentive not to purchase plastic bags, if they didn't exist to begin with.

I understand the 'tax' is not supposed to be a money making scheme, but it is. You seem to wish to promote the idea that our country is not as litter strewn as it was before the introduction of this incentive.

I'd suggest you have no evidence to back up this theory, and therfore your own theory falls neatly into what passes for a conspiracy theory.

Remember bag production and utilisation is up by more than a third since the introduction of this ludicris tax. Are you suggesting that all these extra bags no longer exist?

Your idea that this act of stupidity has influenced rates of production of plastic is less than reasoned. It's propaganda and wishful thinking at best. Do you wait for the rapture too?

Tis like the argument that the penaly points system has made our roads safer.

People got richer, and the planet dirtier.

And folks like yourself wish to promote practices like this. You have lots of nerve to speak about common sense. Herd sense would be more apt.

author by Punksterpublication date Tue Mar 07, 2006 14:27author address author phone

Well, I don't have photographic evidence of the Irish countryside being less littered by plastic bags than it used to be unfortunately. Just my own memory to go by.
As for the effect of the levy, in the first year about a million plastic bags were taken out of circulation.
Some googling will find various stats for you (although I'm sure you'll argue that you can't believe anything the Dept of Environ says).
The money generated by the tax, by the way, funds various waste projects. All this is clearly documented on the Dept of Environ web site.

Yes of course a bigger problem is packaging and I'm sure FOE campaign on that too (if they don't they should). Activists shouldn't oppose every single thing the government does for the sake of it.
There are 2 things this govt has done which I fully support:
1. The plastic bag levy
2. The smoking ban

There are a lot of more things which I oppose the govt on. Corruption, greed, environmental degradation, destruction of heritage sights, neoliberal pro-business policies, shannon war port, poverty, homelessness......etc....etc.

My advice to anyone who's serious about opposing the govt and bringing about change in this country is not to condemn absolutey EVERYTHING the powers that be do because they can easily dismiss you as a typical lefty reactionary. Choose your fights carefully.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Mon Nov 13, 2006 17:55author address author phone

Well - it's happened - or almost. The price of plastic bags is not to be doubled. But it will rise by 47% in the new year to 22c.

Environment Minister DICK Roche has used the same argument kindly provided by Friends of the Earth as printed here, to justify this abhorrent price hike. He reckons that the revenue collected from the sale of plastic bags, goes to making Ireland more environmentally healthy.

Gimme a bucket!

author by Jolly Green Giant - Esoteric Order of Dagonpublication date Tue Nov 14, 2006 13:27author address author phone

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government gives this info:

"The primary purpose of the plastic bag levy is to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic bags by influencing consumer behaviour. Since its introduction on the 4 March 2002 the levy has been an outstanding success. The fall in the consumption of plastic bags has been considerable with the reduction being estimated at over 90%, while receipts collected by the Revenue Commissioners up to the end of September 2004 have realised almost €30 million. "

"Since its inception on 14 March 2002 the plastic bags levy has brought in revenues totaling €55m to the Environment Fund, monies which are used to fund environmental projects such as "bring banks" and new civic amenity sites which are proving immensely popular with the public and are contributing to our much improved recycling performance", the Minister said. "

It looks as if the levy is working to some extent. Support the this progressive tax increase!

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Tue Nov 14, 2006 20:30author address author phone

Just because revenue is up it does not mean this tax is working. In this particular case it means the exact opposite. If revenue is up - the consumption of plastic bags is up also - in fact, plastic bag consumption is up by well over a third since the introduction of the tax. I've already pointed this out, but you and other mouthpieces for the government still insist on using the same ridiculous and deeply flawed argument.

Again - if one wishes to stop plastic bags - outlaw them outright, divert cash into biodegradable alternatives and outlaw plastic packaging in general and tax the living daylights (or fine) manufacturers and importers. Don't fuck with the final user, that's just an excuse to squeeze more money out of the user and to artificially inflate the value of plastic packaging - which makes it harder to switch to an alternative - seeing that plastic becomes more valuable and profitable.

So, singing the government refrain, is not to provide an argument to support the government in this unethical and environmentally unfriendly approach. To discount my arguments without disproving them, is both unethical and is an assumption that the readers of Indymedia are stupid.

Hopefully DICK Roche will find a better vehicle for his propaganda than the Jolly Green Giant, who historically, doesn't have a great record with environmentalism what with their liking for using ingredients that have been genetically modified.

So Jolly Green Giant, go spread your corporate fawning elsewhere.

author by pat cpublication date Wed Nov 15, 2006 15:57author address author phone

The Scottish Assembly believe usage in Ireland has decreased:
"Approximately €1 million are raised each month from the levy.
The decrease in bag usage was initially 90% and is now 95%."

RGDATA the Grocers association say plastic bag usage has decreased:
"Since the plastic bag levy was introduced,
it is estimated that it has contributed €11 mil-
lion to the Government’s coffers and that it has
reduced plastic bag usage by more than 90%."

Senator Fergal Quinn of Superquinn says plastic bag usage has decreased:
" I took the instance ofenforcement and changing the attitude of thenation and it is possible to do so. In my own busi-ness we saw how the attitude of people changedon the issue of plastic bags. "

Looks as if Sean Ryan is an minority again.

author by St Bernardpublication date Wed Nov 15, 2006 19:08author address author phone

I think the price is fair. Nobody is taking the bags now that does not need them. We all try to be green but sometimes we forget our bags. Why not pressure the shops to provide alternative bags and boxes?

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 00:33author address author phone

The figures that have been published by the Government, belie the information that you've graciously provided on behalf of big business. I'll not print the figures again as I'm getting sick of repeating myself. Again: if the tax revenue has gone up and the actual ammount that is charged per bag hasn't gone up - then the usage of plastic bags is rising. Admittedly, like the methodology of taxing cigarettes etc. seems to work at first, it is not a long term cure. The plastic bag consumption like cigarette consumption recovers, and this is what the financial returns show.

Now on the other hand, you suggest that big business makes no money from the tax imposed on plastic bags. This is tres-naive. Do you believe that every time Dunnes flogs a bag, that it puts a few bob in a brown envelope and gives it to the minister?

I think it more likely that all cash in Dunnes goes into a bank where it earns interest (profit) and that Dunnes send the money due to their lackeys when they beg for it.

Ban plastic bags, to stop pollution. Is it your contention Pat, that banning plastic bags outright, would fail to cause the effect that the government say they wish to achieve?

Your idea that a partial implementation of a ban on plastic bags has as much merit as the idea of a partial circumcision.

author by Tonypublication date Thu Nov 16, 2006 16:27author address author phone

Gosh Pat C., you're so...well...hard. What an anti-imperialist. Plastic bags. Who-hoo.

author by pat cpublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 14:05author address author phone

"However, the figures that have been published by the Government, belie the information that you've graciously provided on behalf of big business."

No it does not and it is chidish to suggest that I am publishing these figures on behalf of big business. I have sourced them from various areas. I would say that these sources are as objective as the original ones unless you have some fethistic faith in the government.

"I'll not print the figures again as I'm getting sick of repeating myself. "

You should print them for the first time. At no stage have YOU supplied any figures which back up yyour contentions. The authors of the article have, you have not. I have supplied figures which clash with those. No intelligent person would say my figures were false just because they challenge the original figures. If they doubted them then they would attempt to disprove them.

"Again: if the tax revenue has gone up and the actual ammount that is charged per bag hasn't gone up - then the usage of plastic bags is rising."

The population is rising dramatically, especially the adult population. So the use of plastic bags would rise without the number f bags per person rising.

"Admittedly, like the methodology of taxing cigarettes etc. seems to work at first, it is not a long term cure. The plastic bag consumption like cigarette consumption recovers, and this is what the financial returns show."

This is not at all the case. Why would RGDATA, Fergal Quinn, the Scottish Assembly falsify plastic bag figures? Why see there figures as less objective?

"Now on the other hand, you suggest that big business makes no money from the tax imposed on plastic bags. "

I dont make this point.

"This is tres-naive. Do you believe that every time Dunnes flogs a bag, that it puts a few bob in a brown envelope and gives it to the minister?"

Thats just plain silly. What are you trying to prove by putting words in my mouth and then printing the above nonsense?

"I think it more likely that all cash in Dunnes goes into a bank where it earns interest (profit) and that Dunnes send the money due to their lackeys when they beg for it."

That may be the case. But do you have any evidence to back it up? It looks to me like unsupported musings.

"Ban plastic bags, to stop pollution. Is it your contention Pat, that banning plastic bags outright, would fail to cause the effect that the government say they wish to achieve?"

No. Again you are trying to put words in my mouth.

"Your idea that a partial implementation of a ban on plastic bags has as much merit as the idea of a partial circumcision."

I have never argued for a partial implementation of a ban on plastic bags. For the fourth time in one comment you are putting words in my mouth.

author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethicspublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 14:51author address author phone

Ministers endorsement of double tax is acceptable but only if the have adequately assessed how effective the measure is?

I thought I saw something on the Eco progrramme that highlighted a mis-match of fact. Appartently, yes plastic bag tax yields revenue but apparently black sacks etc. sales have almost doubled.

Does anyone know about this?

What about the German idea of basic packaging at Supermarket level?

I find plastic backs from supermartket most practical for my apartment livestyle......But then who knows? Small neatly tied bags are then placed iu the large bins and green bins. We sure jhave a lot of apartments now and a big bag of rubbish takres up a lot of space......


\You have to be the change you want to see in the world.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 16:34author address author phone

I agree with Michelle. I reckon the bag tax has caused a lot of folks to use more bin bags etc. than ever before.

Pat said: "No intelligent person would say my figures were false just because they challenge the original figures. If they doubted them then they would attempt to disprove them."

Well maybe I'm thick Pat, but...

Let's look at the data Pat's published from the Scots:

If bag usage has dropped by 95%, this means that last year's figure of 113.6million bags purchased is 1/20 of the figure that would have arisen if there'd been no tax.

113.6million X 20 = 2,272million (2,272,000,000) plastic bags would have been floating around last year, and if the current tendency for the annual bag usage to rise is anything to go by, it would have been substantially more this year. This "FACT" that Pat's posted seems to me a mite on the excessive side. It would mean that every person - man, woman and child in Ireland (if the population of Ireland were 5million) would each use 454.4 separate plastic bags each, over the course of the year. Then again maybe I don't fit into whatever notion Pat has about intelligence.

author by pat cpublication date Fri Nov 17, 2006 19:45author address author phone

"The plastic bag levy is one of the few examples of the Government adopting measures to dampen waste generation."
Ciarán Cuffe TD, 21 June 2006 .

"The success of the plastic bag tax in reducing consumption of bags by 95 per cent in its first year, while simultaneously raising €11m for environmental projects, highlights the benefits of these types of taxes. "
CORI Justice Commission, October 2006.

CORI think the plastic bag tax is a good idea. They also believe that the tax has reduced consumption of bags.

author by brianpublication date Fri Mar 09, 2007 11:29author address author phone

Plastic bags are no doubt a huge problem, but just as big a problem littering just about every main and minor road in Ireland is the plastic soft drink bottles,it is so bad in most roads here in the north that people who are concerned with the impact they are having on the enviorment, have been calling on goverment to interduce a refund policy, as it was in the days when glass bottles were used. Their is no doubt in my mind that a plastic bag tax and bottle refund policy would make one hell of a difference in a very short time. In parts of Scotland, plastic bottles littering the grass verges,hedgegroves, and roadsides is so bad one MP there is campaigning to have both a plastict soft drink bottle refund and plastic bag tax interduced .Plastic bottles can take up to 300 years to decompose , and they are a eyesore along with plastic bags that blight our countryside and we must start to do something about it now.

author by david Burkepublication date Tue Apr 28, 2009 22:36author address author phone

Hi Guys!
I hate the bag tax! I hate the way shop staff talk down to you when u ask for a bag whenever you buy food!
I feel that if I'm in a shop and want to use a bag, they should give me the choice! I normally bring a bag, but often forget to bring one, and I do re-use bags all the time, I recently bought something in M&S Menswear dept, and when i got outside it was raining! by the time I got home the bag had disolved, and the ink had stained the jeans that I bought! ( M&S did replce the jeans when i went back the following week) in a case like that I should not have to pay for the plastic bag!

author by ecoguypublication date Wed Apr 29, 2009 00:13author address author phone

The only thing that motivates most people(sadly even more so in this country) to do anything positive about our environment is when is affects there pocket. Hence the success of the plastic bag tax at controlling the appalling litter and ecological nightmare that these loathsome things were causing both in town,countryside, seaside etc. I'm sure Dave your one of our more responsible types, but sadly this tax was necessary to curb the dirty careless habits of the majority of irish citizens. Which by the way are still in evidence judging by the amount of plastic bottle litter lining every riverside, beach, highway and byway countrywide

author by Green Giant.publication date Wed Apr 29, 2009 08:16author address author phone

The obvious lack of environmental awareness in Ireland is down to a very poor educational system.
Throughout Ireland we see piles of litter on every hedgerow and ditch and street corner.

Taxing bags will not make this country environmentally aware.
Proper education will.

Take a well educated country like Iceland for instance.

It is still spotlessly,clinically,surgically clean even after its economy has imploded.

Reykjavic boasts that it is "By far the cleanest city in the world."

Anyone who has been there would agree.

The rest of Scandinavia is almost as spotless.

Out teachers seem to spend more time whining than they do carrying out Yeats' instruction to teach children to "Be neat in Everything". (Quote from his poem "Among Schoolchildren")

Education, not bag taxes, will make the Emerald Isle "Green".

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