Plastic Bag Tax

As the effects of the plastic bag tax wears off, the latest figures show that the number of bags being paid for are up almost 15% year on year. Add this to widespread reports of shops issuing bags without any charge, and Ireland's pioneering tax is in trouble. FIE supports Friends of the Earth's call for a doubling of the tax. And we repeat our own call for the government, having failed to carry through with the chewing gum levy and the cash machine receipts, to address the use of returnable bottles.
As the effects of the plastic bag tax wears off, the latest figures show that the number of bags being paid for are up almost 15% year on year. Add this to widespread reports of shops issuing bags without any charge, and Ireland's pioneering tax is in trouble. FIE supports Friends of the Earth's call for a doubling of the tax. And we repeat our own call for the government, having failed to carry through with the chewing gum levy and the cash machine receipts, to address the use of returnable bottles.
Effect is wearing off on fourth anniversary

Friends of the Earth today 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."

For more information contact Oisin Coghlan on 086-8529528 or 01-6394652
Friends of the Irish Environment have lodged a complaint over the exemption of Aer Rianta's duty free shops from the Plastic Bag levy. Only 5% of the passengers using Aer Rianta's Duty Free Shop at Dublin Airport travel outside the European Union and so qualify for duty free purchases.

Yet the legislation exempts ALL passengers from the required 15c levy on the semi-state company's large gaudy plastic bags. Given the success of the levy and its example world wide, it is particularly unfortunate that the semi-state airport authority is taking advantage of this loophole in the law.

Press Release

Irish Independent coverage

Friends of the Irish Environment have lodged a complaint over the exemption of Aer Rianta's duty free shops from the Plastic Bag levy. Only 5% of the passengers using Aer Rianta's Duty Free Shop at Dublin Airport travel outside the European Union and so qualify for duty free purchases.

Yet the legislation exempts ALL passengers from the required 15c levy on the semi-state company's large gaudy plastic bags. Given the success of the levy and its example world wide, it is particularly unfortunate that the semi-state airport authority is taking advantage of this loophole in the law.

Press Release

Irish Independent coverage
MARCH 16: After a visit from the American Ambassador, the Minister for the Environment has abandoned his plans to extend the hugely successful plastic bag levy to chewing gum. Not only has he abandoned the proposed levy on gum, but he has also caved in to industry pressure to back off on ATM balance slips and fast food containers. The Department is spending long periods of time in consultations and considerations without any action in the field of waste prevention.
Read the sad story.
Read our Press Release.
And read about Ireland's world leading initiative on plastic bags that cleaned up the landscape and made money.

MARCH 16: After a visit from the American Ambassador, the Minister for the Environment has abandoned his plans to extend the hugely successful plastic bag levy to chewing gum. Not only has he abandoned the proposed levy on gum, but he has also caved in to industry pressure to back off on ATM balance slips and fast food containers. The Department is spending long periods of time in consultations and considerations without any action in the field of waste prevention.
Read the sad story.
Read our Press Release.
And read about Ireland's world leading initiative on plastic bags that cleaned up the landscape and made money.
Contrary to reports in a recent Sunday paper, the plastic bag levy remains a continued success. The tax, introduced in March 2002, has netted the Environmental Fund roughly €12 million a year.
Read the returns.
And our letter to the Minister requesting an extension of the levies to beverage containers.
Reports in a Sunday Paper suggested that there was an increase in the usage of plastic bags, This confusion arose, a spokesman for FIE explained, as the levy receipts paid into the Environment Fund from the Revenue Commissioners were more in January 2004 when compared to Jan 2003. What should have been compared was the overall total for each of the accounting quarters, which are more or less the same.

'The accounting periods since the tax's introduction have showed no decline' a spokesman said. 'In fact, the figures for the last quarter available (August, October 2003) are in excess of both of the last two quarters'.

The tax was well targeted and has been accepted as a success by businesses and the public alike. FIE has been contacted by media in Europe and the United States anxious to find out how we did it.

A recent study commissioned by the Minister for the Environment targeted fast food containers, ATM receipts, and chewing gum.

FIE has written to the Minister urging that a beverage container deposit scheme be considered by the Government 'on an urgent basis' but has been told by Pat the Cope Gallagher that such a scheme was not currently under consideration.

Verification and comment Tony Lowes 027-73025

Irish language: David Healy 01 832 4087 087 6178852