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Plastic Bag Regulations

Plastic Bag Regulations

The Waste Management (Environmental Levy) (Plastic Bag) Regulations 2001 came into force on the 4th March 2002. The Regulations have now been amended by The Waste Management (Environmental Levy) (Plastic Bag) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2007 – S.I. No. 167 of 2007. The new regulations provide for a levy of 22 cent to be charged in respect of plastic bags supplied to customers at the point of sale of goods or products to be placed in the bags or the sale of plastic bags in or at any shop, supermarket, service station or other sales outlet with effect from 1st July 2007.

Article 5 of the Regulations sets out a number of exceptions to the payment of the levy as follows:

The following classes of plastic bags are excepted from the definition of a plastic bag:-

•plastic bags solely used to contain: -

•fresh fish and fresh fish products

•fresh meat and fresh meat products

•fresh poultry and fresh poultry products provided that such bags are not greater in dimension than 225mm in width (exclusive of any gussets), by 345mm in depth (inclusive of any gussets), by 450mm in length, (inclusive of any handles)

•plastic bags solely used to contain the products referred to in paragraph (a) where such products are contained in packaging, (including a bag), provided that such plastic bags are not greater in dimension than the dimensions referred to in paragraph (a)

•plastic bags solely used to contain: -

•fruit, nuts or vegetables


•dairy products

•cooked food, whether cold or hot


provided that such products are not otherwise contained in packaging and where such bags are not greater in dimension than the dimensions referred to in paragraph (a);

•plastic bags used to contain goods or products sold:

•on board a ship or aircraft used for carrying passengers for reward

•in an area of a port or airport to which intending passengers are denied access unless in possession of a valid ticket or boarding card, for the purposes of carrying the goods on board the ship or aircraft referred to in subparagraph (i)

•plastic bags designed for re-use, which are used to contain goods or products and which are sold to customers for a sum of not less than 70 cent each.

It should be noted that if any of the plastic bags exempted under the Article 5 (a) or (b) or (c) above are used for carrying other purchases with exempted material then those bags are liable for the levy.

The Regulations also provide that the charge has to be imposed on the customer and that it has to be itemised separately on receipt or docket issued to the customer.

The Revenue Commissioners enforce the Regulations to ensure that proper returns are made and that the necessary audit and collection systems are in place. An information leaflet has been produced by the Revenue Commissioners.

Cork City Council is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Regulations on the ground to ensure that the exemptions are not abused.

Revenue Commissioners Information Leaflet - Plastic Bag Levy(45KB)

Plastic Bag Levy



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.

Current Levy

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) (pdf, 167kb) , amending S.I. No. 605 of 2001

Plastic Bag Regulations (S.I. No. 605 of 2001)

Biodegradable Bags

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 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