The plastic bag levy was first introduced on 4th March 2002 at the rate of 15 cent per bag. Its primary purpose is to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic bags by influencing consumer behaviour. All levies are remitted into the Environment Fund.
It had an immediate effect on consumer behaviour with a decrease in plastic bag usage from an estimated 328 bags per capita to 21 bags per capita overnight.
The current levy of 22 cent was introduced on 1 July 2007. It was increased as the bags per capita had increased to 31 during 2006.
The aim of the increase is to reduce the plastic bag per capita usage to 21 or lower.
Plastic Bag (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations (S.I. No. 167 of 2007), amending S.I. No. 605 of 2001.
Plastic Bag Regulations (S.I. No. 605 of 2001)
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.
The Department does not endorse any bags as being "levy free".
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 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 In the grocery sector, disposable plastic bags have largely been replaced by reusable shopping bags.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.