Wednesday, 4 October 2006
Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Question 125: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will amend the legislation governing the plastic bag levy in order to allow for a substantial increase in the levy in order to reverse the trend whereby the use of plastic bags is increasing. [30909/06]
The 15 cent levy on plastic bags, as provided for in the Waste Management (Environmental Levy) (Plastic Bag) Regulations 2001, has led to a dramatic reduction in use of plastic bags with a consequent positive environmental benefit. Plastic shopping bags accounted for 5% of litter arisings prior to the introduction of the levy, but for just 0.22% of litter arisings in 2004.
There has been an upward trend in receipts remitted by the Revenue Commissioners since the levy was introduced, but this must be interpreted with caution. Firstly, these figures are not a precise measure of the number of bags supplied in a given period — each year's figure will also include levies recovered in respect of earlier periods on account of retailers filing late returns and the recoupment of levies due following Revenue audit findings. Secondly, the increase in income is also likely to be due in part to increased enforcement by local authorities and audit activity by the Revenue Commissioners. Enforcement efforts have been stepped up and a special network of local authority officers has been established to monitor and co-ordinate the enforcement drive.
I have previously indicated that I am anxious to ensure that the levy's positive effect on our environment is maintained. To that end, I have decided that the levy will be increased to 22c with effect from 1 January of next year – this is the maximum level that can be set under the existing legislative provisions. While I would like to increase the levy sooner, I must give both the Revenue Commissioners and retailers time to adjust their systems. The proposed change represents a substantial 47% increase on the original levy and I am confident that it will have the desired effect in discouraging use of plastic shopping bags. I will monitor the implementation of the new levy carefully; if it becomes apparent that further increases are required I will bring forward the necessary legislative changes to the Waste Management Act.