Shoppers pack away bag tax worries

Joy and Eve Lindsay. INNT 15-002-PSB
Joy and Eve Lindsay. INNT 15-002-PSB

IT’S not often a new government tax is met with so much indifference or even the odd rye smile, but that’s what the Times found during a walkabout around Ballyclare on the first day of the new shopping bag levy.

From Monday (April 8) retailers, by law, have to charge shoppers at least five pence for each new single-use carrier bag used in any transaction.

The tax applies to a variety of bags, however, there are a number of exemptions to the regulations on the grounds of hygiene and food safety, the protection of goods and consumers, and confidentiality in respect of bags for medicines.

All proceeds raised from the so-called ‘plastic bag tax’ go to Department of the Environment which has said it will put the money back into the community though voluntary organisations and charities as well as into schools and businesses.

Around 250million plastic bags are used in Northern Ireland each year and it’s hoped the levy will reduce plastic bag usage by 80 per cent, as well as reducing the number ending up in landfill sites.

On Monday lunchtime, shoppers at Asda Ballyclare were found to be somewhat indifferent to the new tax.

Joy Lindsay, out with daughter Eve, was caught without bags, but instead decided to do without.

She told the Times: “I had not expected to do any shopping but then I changed my mind and decided to get a few extra things.

“I didn’t have any bags on me so I just piled everything in to the boot of the car, sure they will end up on a shelf at home anyway, there is no need for a bag.

“I grew up on a farm and I hate to see the bags in the hedges and just refuse to use them at all. Hopefully people start to get into the mentality of thinking to take bags with them. It may just be 5p a bag, but it soon mounts up.”

Myrtle McCowan welcomed the levy, but said the money should go to worthwhile causes.

“The government gets enough of our money and I think anything raised should go to the likes of the Hospice or a local charity,” she added.

Elaine Cooper has been taking reusable bags with her to the shops for a while and welcomed the tax, saying: “I remember my mother using a wicker basket to do the shopping and we should all really be doing that.”

However, Glengormley woman Sandra Malcolmson said the 5p charge was “too dear”.

“I got plenty of reusable bags in time for it coming in, but to me 5p is just too dear, it should be more like 2p or 3p,” she commented.