30/05/2012

Plastic Bag Charge 'Must Not Be Revenue-Focused'

A potential charge for plastic bags should be introduced to help the environment, not to make money.

That was the view of members of the Environment Committee at Stormont, who debated the proposed carrier bag charge in the Assembly Chamber yesterday.

The Committee called on environment minister Alex Attwood to make sure the charge focuses on reducing the amount of bags used in Northern Ireland.

Mr Attwood announced in January that a 5p charge will come in as of next April, as a “simple way” to reduce a "scrouge on the environment".

Chairperson Anna Lo said: "The Committee was concerned about the level of the charge and the types of bags it would cover, and wants confirmation that the focus is on the environmental impact, not the generation of revenue."

She said that the environment and society would benefit from less plastic bags being used, as there would be less carbon emissions from their production and more safe spaces for sea wildlife.

But she said that when the charge comes in, it should only be on single-use bags and not on reusable or natural bags, to avoid "conflicting messages".

The Department for the Environment is currently carrying out a consultation exercise on how best to implement a charge.

The Environment Committee carried out some online consultation and said most responses were in favour of the charge.

Estimates show that between 160m and 200m plastic bags are used in Northern Ireland every year.

(NE)

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