The Northern Ireland Assembly's Committee for the Environment has secured a delay to the introduction of new charging arrangements for carrier bags to allow more time to communicate the changes to the public.
The committee has published its report on the Carrier Bags Bill, which will introduce the second phase of charging for carrier bags, extending the 5-pence levy to the cheaper versions of reusable bags in order to address concerns that these bags will become the new “throwaway” bag.
This follows the first phase of charging for carrier bags, which came into effect in April 2013 and introduced a 5 pence charge for single-use carrier bags.
Committee chair, Anna Lo, said: “We all know the problems that plastic bags can cause for the environment. They often end up as unsightly litter or landfill, or find their way into the sea and waterways, causing harm to wildlife.
“The committee is therefore pleased that initial evidence suggests that the first phase of carrier bag charging has led to a significant decrease in the number of plastic bags in circulation.”
Committee members were, however, concerned that the proposed implementation date for the second phase of charging — April 2014 — was too soon. They felt that it did not give enough time to prepare the public for these new charging arrangements.
“We welcome the delay of further charges until at least January 2015,” said Lo. “We hope that this later implementation date will give time to deliver a clear communications strategy to the public. The last thing we want is for shoppers to be confused: they need clear, straightforward information on exactly which types of bags will be subject to the levy and what they will cost at the checkout.”