Published Monday, 14 January 2013
The plastic bag tax will see customers charged 5p for a carrier bag. (© PA)
Environment Minister Alex Attwood has said he envisages the levy will lead to an 80% reduction in the use of plastic bags.
The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 were approved by the Assembly on Monday and will come into effect from 8 April, when retailer will be required to charge customers for each new single carrier bag supplied.
The proceeds of the levy will be forwarded to the Department of the Environment.
"Recent statistics have shown a significant increase in single use carrier bags handed out by major supermarkets in Northern Ireland - it is the big retailers which I am most interested in," Mr Attwood explained.
"This is an area where consumers can really help the environment. The image of NI as 'green and clean' - a major part of the character of our lives and the appeal of this place - can be deepened if we deal decisively with carrier bags and the damage they cause."
The levy is not confined to plastic bags - it also applies to bags made from paper, plant-based material or natural starch.
The new legislation does provide for a range of exemptions from the levy on the grounds of hygiene and food safety, the protection of both goods and consumers and confidentiality in respect of prescription medicines.
The Minister added: "The key objective of the carrier bag levy is to reduce or eliminate the unnecessary use of bags, regardless of the material from which they are made.
"The introduction of charging will help to communicate the wider 'reduce and reuse' waste message. The revenue raised from the levy will contribute towards a number of Departmental environmental programmes and activities."