Published Monday, 09 September 2013
Mark H Durkan has dropped plans to increase the charge for carrier bags. (© Presseye)
Mark H Durkan has announced that the tax - introduced to encourage a reduction in littering - will remain at 5p.
His department had previously proposed increasing the levy to 10p from April 2014.
However, the August release of provisional first quarter figures showed a large reduction in single use bag numbers, with several major supermarkets reporting a reduction of over 80% in their stores.
After reflecting on this and engaging with stakeholders, the minister has decided to keep the levy at five pence.
He explained: "I have always said that the public have been ahead of government here wanting a reduction in bags littering our streets and countryside.
"The recent results show that the five pence levy has produced a step change in consumer behaviour - leading to a significant reduction in bag numbers.
"As a result I believe that we do not need to increase the levy to 10 pence.
"Since the introduction of the five pence levy, the public have adopted a very responsible attitude and I commend them for that.
"I therefore will keep the levy at five pence for the foreseeable future. I will of course keep the situation under review."
The Minister still intends to proceed with plans to extend the five pence levy to low-cost reusable carrier bags from April 2014.
This is to prevent those bags becoming the new 'throwaway' bags.
The Carrier Bags Bill, which will provide the Environment Department with the powers to apply the extension, was introduced to the Assembly in June.
The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the minister's commitment to avoid increasing the charge on plastic bags.
"The bag tax, at its current 5p level, has clearly been sufficient to change consumer behaviour," FSB Northern Ireland Policy Chairman, Wilfred Mitchell, said.
"It has served to make customers stop and think before taking disposable bags and, importantly, reminds them to bring their own reusable bags with them when going shopping."
© UTV News