DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland is to increase a tax on plastic shopping bags that has cut their use by more than 90 percent since its launch five years ago, the government said on Wednesday.
Before the tax, the sight of plastic bags flapping from trees and hedgerows across Ireland was so prevalent that some said they were fast becoming the Emerald Isle’s “national flag.”
The levy — which will rise to 22 euro cents ($0.29 cents) from 15 euro cents per bag from July 1 — cut the amount of plastic bag litter by 95 percent after people switched to reusable bags, said Environment Minister Dick Roche.
The number of bags used by shoppers fell to as low 21 per head each year, compared to 328 before the tax, he said. The number crept up to 30 in 2006, prompting the tax rise.
“There has been no increase in the levy since its inception and I am anxious to ensure that its impact is not diminished,” said Roche.
Ireland has raised 75 million euros from the tax since it was introduced in 2002 in an attempt to reduce litter from the 1.2 billion bags given to Irish shoppers each year and improve the country’s environmental record.
The levy has attracted interest from green campaigners and lawmakers around the world. Environmentalists say plastic bags create litter, harm marine wildlife, waste natural resources and are rarely recycled.
Friends of the Earth has backed plastic bag taxes, saying they are popular with consumers and help reduce waste.