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Durkan delays reusable bag charge

Environment minister Mark H Durkan has won support in the Northern Ireland Assembly to defer a levy on reusable carrier bags until 19 January 2015.

Mark H Durkan

Outlining amendment to carrier bag resolutions, Durkan (left) urged members to change the planned implementation date from April 2014.

The proposal was first put forward by the Assembly’s Environment Committee.

He said: “The main reasons for the suggestion were to ensure a longer lead-in time to allow retailers to prepare for the extension of the levy and to ensure that the public were fully informed of the changes to the current charging arrangements.”

A 5p levy on single-use plastic carrier bags was enacted in Northern Ireland in April last year. The next stage of the legislation extends this to bags provided by retailers intended to last longer than one use.

Pam Cameron (DUP) backed Durkan’s amendment, saying legislation had so far managed to reduce single-use bags by around 80% in some areas.

He added: “When the committee began its investigations and the department brought forward the amendments, it was clear that there were concerns that the heavier plastic bags that were still being sold for a relatively small amount could become the new throwaway bags. 

“That is why the second phase of the legislation is important.”

But Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist Voice) questioned the need to impose a charge on the use of biodegradable bags.

He said: “Where is the logic in moving from where the debate about plastic bags started out to including biodegradable bags in the definition of carrier bags?”

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