Government bagging €22m with plastic tax
THE Government is raking in €22m a year from plastic bags despite claiming a 40pc increase in price rates would reduce usage.
When the price was put up from 15c to 22c per bag last year, then Environment Minister Dick Roche said he hoped it would lead to a drop in the amount collected by the levy.
But shoppers still paid out €22m for around 100 million plastic bags last year, compared to €18m for around 120 million plastic bags in 2006.
Labour environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy said the figures showed that consumer behaviour could not be influenced by price rises alone.
"It does look like it's having some impact but these taxes do end up becoming revenue-raising measures," she said.
A New York Times article earlier this year stated that carrying a plastic bag in Ireland has now become become socially unacceptable, "on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one's dog".
But the figures released by the Department of the Environment show that large numbers of shoppers are continuing to use them rather than the more environmentally friendly re-usable shopping bags.
Ms Tuffy said she was not in favour of increasing the tax to €1-a-bag to provide a further disincentive to shoppers.
"I think you can go too far on things, you have to be balanced," she said.
But she urged shoppers to cut down on their use of plastic bags and also called for measures to promote the Environmental Fund, which is financed by the €22m proceeds of the plastic bag tax.
"I think there needs to be more publicity about what way the money is spent," she said.
In response to her Dail question, Environment Minister John Gormley said the money raised was paying for the running costs of recycling facilities and waste awareness campaigns; the Green Schools initiative; bring centres; and the North-South scheme to dispose of waste fridge-freezers.
However, the department is unable to provide a specific breakdown of the use of the plastic bag tax funds because they are mixed in with funds from the landfill levy.
When the plastic bag tax was introduced in 2002, it was hailed as a ground-breaking environmental measure. It cut the average number of plastic bags used by shoppers from 328 bags to just 21. But the Government decided to increase the tax last year after research had shown that most shoppers were now buying 30 plastic bags each per year.