Bag levy is ‘red tape nightmare’ - Traders

LOCAL businesses are bracing themselves for a bureaucratic nightmare with the introduction of the plastic bag levy next week.

That’s the view of the President of Ballymoney Chamber of Commerce who says that an enormous burden has been placed on traders as a result of an initiative few in the business world agree with.

Winnie Mellet says traders across the province are increasingly becoming tax collectors for the Government as well as having to invest substantially in computers so as to pay the levy online.

The Carrier Bag levy will mean that everyone will be charged at least 5p for new single use carrier bags whenever they shop in Northern Ireland. The main aim is to help protect the environment by cutting the number of carrier bags used.

It’s not just plastic bags. Single use carrier bags can be made from: •plastic •paper •plant based material such as starch. As paper bags and other alternatives to plastic bags can be equally damaging to the environment, from 8 April the carrier bag levy will apply to all single use carrier bags – not just plastic bags.

When will the charge apply?

You will be charged for single use carrier bags when:

•you buy things like groceries or clothing

•goods need to be delivered, for example when you make an internet purchase (for goods which are delivered in single use carrier bags and dispatched from Northern Ireland premises)

Retailers may charge more than 5p if they wish, however, only 5p from the sale of each bag is payable to the Department of the Environment.

When will the charge not apply?

If you are buying a service, for example, shoe repair or laundry, the service will not be subject to the levy. However, if you buy goods such as shoe polish or cleaning products from the service provider then the charge will apply.

The levy doesn’t apply if a single use carrier bag is used for promotional or free items such as catalogues. It only applies when goods are sold.

Some single use carrier bags will be exempt from the levy:

•bags used to contain take-away hot food and hot drinks

•bags used solely to contain certain items such as unpackaged food, seeds and bulbs, axes/ knives/ razor blades, goods contaminated by soil and some medicinal products

•bags used to carry goods purchased in an airport after you clear security

•bags of a certain size used solely to contain packaged uncooked meat or fish

•certain types of small bags

•specialist bags such as mail order dispatch and courier bags

The levy doesn’t apply when a carrier bag manufacturer or wholesaler sells carrier bags to a shop.

The levy will be paid to the Department of the Environmemt and according to Mrs. Mellet traders have to go online every three months to pay the bill either by debit or credit card.

“There are many in this town who don’t have computers to comply with this and it’s only going to add to the growing financial burden that we are already experiencing in the current economic climate.

“We don’t need this and I blame the politicians. They colluded with each other and we weren’t made aware of some of the consultation process. It’s a back door tax which is going to double next year that we didn’t need. We were caught on the hop when we thought paper bags would be exempt. We purchased a load of them only to be told in January that they too would be included in the levy.” she said.

Local trader, Michael Thompson, agreed and said he hoped customers would understand that the levy was not at the behest of the trader but a Government imposition.

“This is just another tax,” Mr. Thompson said. He also agreed with the Chamber President that it would mean much more work for everyone.

For more information about the carrier bag levy contact the information line: •0300 200 7879

A total of 160 million plastic bags are used in Northern Ireland every year.

To date, ten civil service jobs have been relocated to Londonderry to administer the levy.