Plastic Bag Regulations

In accordance with the polluter pays principle, environmental levies are being increasingly used internationally to assist in the achievement of environmental objectives.

Since the introduction of the plastic bag levy on the 4th March 2002, consumer behaviour has changed with plastic bag per capita usage decreasing overnight from an estimated 328 bags to 21. Data from levies remitted and the results of the 2006 Census, would indicate that plastic bag usage rose to 31 bags per capita during the course of 2006. It is vital that the levy’s positive effect on the environment is maintained. To that effect the levy has been increased to 22 cent on Sunday 1st July 2007. The aim of the increase is to reduce the per capita usage to the level achieved in 2002 or lower. If this is achieved, the levy increase will not generate any additional revenue for the Environment Fund

What Legislation governs the plastic bag levy?

S.I. No. 605/2001 - Waste Management (Environmental Levy)(Plastic Bag) Regulations 2001
S.I 167 of 2007 Waste Management (Environmental Levy) (Plastic Bag) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 2007

What are the obligations of the Consumer?

To pay 22c for each plastic bag used.

What are the obligations of the Retailer?

Charge the levy & display on till receipt.

Are biodegradable bags exempt?

No. The levy on plastic shopping bags has a strong anti-litter emphasis. The Regulations do not, therefore, distinguish between biodegradable plastic bags and other plastic bags. Biodegradable bags still take a considerable time to degrade and, while their use may be preferable in a final treatment situation, such bags will continue to form a visible nuisance for a significant period of time where discarded as litter.

Are there alternatives to disposable plastic shopping bags?

Alternatives to disposable plastic shopping bags, such as reusable boxes, and reusable bags are available in many shops. The consumer has, by and large, changed to using these alternatives. In the grocery sector disposable plastic bags have largely been replaced by reusable “long life” shopping bags.

Plastic shopping bags designed for re-use are exempt from the levy provided that the retailer charges at least 70 cent for the bag.

Where do the funds from the plastic bag levy go?

Levy proceeds accrue to the Environment Fund and are used exclusively in funding waste recycling, litter and other beneficial environmental initiatives.

What should the Consumers do to avoid paying the levy?

Customers should remember to bring reusable bags for all grocery, hardware and clothes shopping.

What role does Offaly County Council have in enforcing the Plastic Bag Levy Regulations?

Offaly County Council's Waste Enforcement Staff carry out inspections with retailers throughout the County to ensure compliance with the Regulations. Complaints may be made by members of the public, to the Waste Enforcement Team in the Environment Section, where they believe that a retailer is charging the correct levy.