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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