Five million fewer plastic bags handed out in Northern Ireland over past year

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By Rebecca Black

Five million fewer plastic bags were handed out in Northern Ireland in the last year, according to Government figures.

The data was released as a survey recorded increasing concern among the public about environmental issues.

In the sixth year of the carrier bag levy operating in the region, 93.5 million carrier bags were handed out by retailers.

This figure is 5.4% lower than the previous year, with 5.3 million fewer bags dispensed.

Under legislation introduced in Northern Ireland in 2013 aimed at reducing the use of plastic, retailers must charge at least 5p for new carrier bags.

The levy raised £4.6 million in 2018/19, a decrease of £300,000 (6.1%) from the previous year.

There has been a 68.8% reduction in the number of carrier bags dispensed since the levy was introduced, down from an estimated 300 million in 2012.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, which records the statistics, published the latest figures on Thursday.

The money raised by the carrier bag levy is used by the department to deliver local projects to enhance and improve the environment.

The department also revealed growing concern about environmental issues.

The Continuous Household Survey recorded an increase in individuals concerned about the environment compared with last year. A total of 75% of respondents in the 2018/19 survey were reported to be very/fairly concerned about environmental issues, up from 71% in 2017/18.

The survey also showed that most respondents reused plastic bags. In the 2018/19 survey a total of 85% respondents claimed to reuse plastic bags, up from 81%.

There has been raised awareness of plastic pollution partly attributed to the popular BBC TV series Blue Planet which highlighted the scale of the issues in the world's oceans.

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