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Almost 200 million fewer carrier bags being used since introduction of levy

There are almost 200 million fewer plastic bags in circulation in the north since the introduction of a levy in 2013
John Monaghan

THERE are 199 million fewer carrier bags in circulation in the north since the introduction of the levy in 2013, the Environment Minister has said.

The number of bags handed out has dropped from 300 million in 2012 to just over 100 million last year.

However, overall bag usage has risen by around 10 per cent since 2015, when the scheme was expanded to include all carrier bags costing less than 20p.

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen said: "It is encouraging that so many carrier bags have been taken out of circulation since the introduction of the levy.

"The people of Northern Ireland have embraced the reuse and recycling of shopping bags. This significantly reduces the amount of both plastic and paper going to landfill.

"A small change in behaviour at the cash registers contributes hugely to enhancing and further protecting the environment and public space that we all share."

The levy first came into force in April 2013 and was applied to all carrier bags costing less than 20p from January 2015, where previously it was limited to single-use bags.

The department said the money raised from the scheme has been put towards environmental projects, with nearly £1.8m allocated through the Natural Heritage Fund, while almost £1 million has been spent on clean-up and environmental programmes and £400,000 used to combat illegal waste dumping.

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