The plastic bag levy's primary purpose is to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic bags by influencing consumer behaviour.
The levy is remitted into the Environment Fund. It had an immediate effect when introduced in 2002 on consumer behaviour with a decrease in plastic bag usage from an estimated 328 bags per capita to an estimated 14 bags per capita in 2014 with the current levy standing at 22 cent per bag.
The levy on plastic shopping bags has a strong anti-litter emphasis. The Regulations do not distinguish between biodegradable plastic bags and other plastic bags. Biodegradable bags still take a considerable time to degrade. While their use may be preferable in a final treatment situation, such bags will continue to form a visible nuisance where discarded as litter.
Levy Free Bags
The Department does not endorse any bags as being "levy free" bags. Bags not exceeding 225mm in width (exclusive of any gussets), by 345mm in depth (inclusive of any gussets), by 450mm in length, (inclusive of any handles) have been marketed as "Levy Free Bags". The regulations, however, do not provide for "Levy Free Bags". The Plastic Bag Levy applies on all plastic bags, even if marketed as "Levy Free Bags", when used in circumstances not exempted by the regulations.
Alternatives to Disposable Plastic Bags
Alternatives to disposable plastic shopping bags, such as reusable bags are now available in shops. The consumer has changed to using these alternatives. In the grocery sector, disposable plastic bags have largely been replaced by reusable shopping bags. Plastic shopping bags designed for re-use are exempt from the levy provided the retailer charges at least 70 cent for the bag
Monitoring of Plastic Bag Litter
Figures for plastic bags as a percentage of litter pollution nationally are included in the annual National Litter Monitoring Statistics.
Further information on the litter monitoring system.
• Plastic Bag (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations (S.I. 167 of 2007) ,
• Plastic Bag Regulations (S.I. No. 605 of 2001)