Northern Ireland’s environment minister Michelle McIlveen has announced funding from the country’s plastic bag charge for local environment projects.
An initial £400,000 from the levy will be available for the devolved administration’s Challenge Fund for not-for-profit organisations, delivering projects which aim to improve the local environment.
Funding from the Challenge Fund will be awarded via a competitive application process. The scheme will close for applications on 18 November.
McIlveen (pictured) said: “This funding of £400,000, with potentially further support later in the year, will enable communities, schools and voluntary organisations to undertake small-scale projects to improve the environment and deliver environmental education.
“Community groups can use the funding to enhance civic pride in their local area through, for example, tidying a local beach or neglected beauty spot, or creating and enhancing areas where the public can enjoy the local environment.
“Schools can take advantage of the financial support to create eco-gardens and provide learning opportunities where children and young people can engage with nature.”
She said more than £4.6m has been offered from the Challenge Fund to date, which has backed almost 600 environmental projects.
Northern Ireland introduced a 5p charge for single-use carrier bags in April 2013. This was extended to reusable bags that cost less than 20p in January 2015.
Figures for 2015-16 showed a 10.6% increase on the previous year in bags sold by retailers in the country, despite the charge.
The 101.2 million bags is still markedly lower than the baseline figure before introduction of the levy, estimated at 300 million in 2012.