Tuesday 12 November 2019

New plan for plastic bags tax - but 'latte levy' is put on hold

Stock Image: Bloomberg
Stock Image: Bloomberg

Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan

Heavy plastic bags sold by supermarkets are to be levied for the first time in an effort to push consumers towards non-plastic 'bags for life'.

Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton will bring a series of proposals to Cabinet tomorrow, aimed at reducing shoppers' reliance on plastic.

However, he is not expected to push ahead immediately with the long-flagged 'latte levy' on disposable cups.

Ministers are expected to sign-off on a 3c increase in the standard plastic bag levy, which will push the price for a bag up to 25c.

Use of such bags has dropped dramatically since a levy was first introduced in 2002. Back then it was estimated the amount of disposable bags handed out by shops was 328 per person every year.

This fell to 21 bags per person by the end of the first year and figures for 2016 show that the average shopper now only takes eight disposable bags over the course of a year.

But Mr Bruton now wants to end the reliance of heavier bags which, while reusable, are still plastic.

These bags cannot legally be sold for less than 70c - but there is no environmental tax applied.

A memo to be considered by the Cabinet tomorrow proposes that the 25c levy now be applied to reusable plastic bags too.

While shopkeepers could take the hit, the expectation is that the price of the bags will rise.

This means shoppers could face being charged 95c for a large plastic bag.

The memo also proposes increasing the levy on landfill sites by €5 to €85 per tonne of commercial waste.

It is expected the minister will propose new levies on other disposable plastic items such as throwaway cups, plates and cutlery. However, the introduction of such taxes will be more complicated.

They new climate taxes will be put out for consultation before they are introduced.

It is hoped the increase and extension of the plastic bag levy will discourage supermarkets from selling the large reusable plastic bags and instead offer customers non-plastic options.

Most supermarkets offer reusable plastic bags at a cheaper price than the non-plastic 'bags for life' and the Government is concerned that the cost difference is driving customers towards the plastic option.

The Government's Climate Action Plan contains a commitment to "scope" a number of possible environmental levies, including a possible levy on single-use plastics, before the end of the year.

In France, the government was forced to ditch a so-called 'picnic tax' on plastic cups and cutlery after a public backlash over the plan.

Mr Bruton has also signalled his intention to introduce fees on non-recyclable plastic on food packaging in supermarkets.

It was previously flagged that the Government intended to introduce a 25c tax on takeaway coffee cups, called the 'latte levy'.

However, it is understood the threat of the new tax resulted in the introduction of recyclable coffee cups in most cafés.

Some fast-food outlets are still using non-recyclable cups for fizzy drinks and they may be targeted by the new levies.

Last week, the Government published the first progress report for its Climate Action Plan which showed 149 actions, or 85pc, of the report's recommendations had been delivered.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section