Retailers should now register for Carrier Bag Levy- Attwood

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ENVIRONMENT Minister Alex Attwood is today advising that businesses should now register on the Carrier Bag Levy Website to ensure collection of the 5p levy on carrier bags which comes in on 8 April 2013.

There is less than three weeks to go before the introduction of the new carrier bag levy on 8 April when retailers and businesses in Northern Ireland must charge at least 5 pence for each new single use carrier bag they supply to customers.

Registering online from today will make it easy for businesses and retailers to pay the proceeds of the 5p levy to the Department of the Environment (DOE).

Minister Attwood met the first business to register online, Eurospar Creightons of Finaghy in Belfast today.

He said: “My Department is keen to work with retailers in keeping administration of the levy as simple and easy as possible. I believe this can be achieved. The levy is to be easily managed with a big return. I urge all to embrace it.

“Once they have registered their businesses online, retailers will only be asked to provide information to the Department every three months and completing the required online return should only take a few minutes.

“We continue to work closely and build relationships with the public and across the retail sector to ensure that the Carrier Bag levy becomes an integral part of our waste management strategy throughout Northern Ireland.”

Referring to the important environmental message behind the Carrier Bag Levy, Alex Attwood said: “In Northern Ireland around 250 million carrier bags are used every year, that is 5 million a week, 700,000 a day and 30,000 an hour. This levy is intended to reduce their environmental damage by cutting the number of bags used.

“The introduction of carrier bag levys elsewhere has been a very successful way of substantially cutting bag usage and waste to landfill. In the Republic of Ireland there was a 90% reduction. We should aim for at least this. Working with the retail industry we can do so.”

The levy will apply to the majority of new single use carrier bags, regardless of the material from which the bag is made (the levy applies to bags made from plastic, paper or other natural materials). There will be useful exemptions – on the grounds of patient confidentiality, hygiene and food safety, and when a bag is essential to protect goods or consumers.

The Minister has gone further than Wales with good arguments on hot food bag exemptions. Some of the exemptions are - Any bag that is manufactured for reuse, any carrier bag that has been previously used, some small paper and small plastic bags (e.g. for pick and mix, greeting cards, cough mixture etc), bags used to hold hot food and hot drinks that are to be consumed away from the premises, bags that are solely used to contain packaged uncooked meat, poultry or fish, as long as they do not exceed specified maximum dimensions.

Under this new legislation retailers and businesses will be required to transfer the revenue they collect from the levy to the DOE on a quarterly basis. The levy will be administered by the DOE’s Carrier Bag Levy Team and money raised will be used to help fund environmental programmes and activities.

John McDowell, Parliamentary Spokesperson for the National Federation Retail Newsagents N. Ireland said: “The introduction of a Carrier Bag Levy is something we proposed to the Department of the Environment some nine years ago and we are very supportive of its introduction at this time.

“The introduction of the Levy will lead to significant cost savings for our members which will greatly outweigh any administrative costs incurred as well as contributing to waste management and environmental strategies.”

To avoid paying the levy altogether, consumers should always bring their own bags when shopping. Whether it’s a ‘bag for life’, a canvas bag, or just an ordinary plastic carrier bag, it all helps the environment by using less virgin raw materials, reducing carbon used up when bags are being manufactured and reducing waste that ends up in landfill.

DOE has produced two short innovative animated videos to provide both the public and retailers with key information about the Carrier Bag Levy. The video for the public explains the environmental reasons behind the introduction of the levy as well as giving details about bag exemptions, and tips on getting a good bag habit.

In an edit especially for retailers, details about the online registration and payment processes are explained. The animated videos can be viewed at : www.nidirect.gov.uk/baglevy