Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland bag levy could reduce litter

Monday saw the introduction of a bag tax in Northern Ireland. But it is something people were well used to in the Irish Republic where there has been a plastic bag tax since 2002.

Image caption The banks of the river Dodder in Dublin are littered with plastic bags

The river Dodder meanders through south Dublin; its banks are still littered with the fading colours of old plastic shopping bags.

Because the bags are not bio-degradable it is a fair bet that some of them pre-date the Republic of Ireland's plastic bags tax, introduced 11 years ago.

Before the tax it was estimated that shops gave out 1.3bn plastic bags annually; within three months that figure was down by a dramatic 90%.

That is because when people go to the shops and supermarkets now they prefer to bring their own re-useable bags rather than pay the equivalent of 19p that each plastic bag costs.

Some stores, though, give out free recyclable paper bags.

'Great idea'

And while the money raised by the tax goes on environmental protection - about £180m so far - most people prefer not to pay it.

One man, originally from England, shopping at a Tesco store in the Merrion Centre in Dublin said: "It's very good for the environment.

"We're used to it now. I'm surprised that it hasn't been introduced in the north much quicker."

A woman packing her re-useable bag agreed.

"I think it's a great idea. I'd always have bags in the car and I'd always re-use them for the shopping. I haven't paid for a plastic bag in a long time."

As for the impact of plastic bags on litter, the latest figures suggest there has been a 20-fold decrease since the levy was introduced in 2002.

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