Plastic Bags

Myths: Fact or Fiction

Degrade in Landfill Myth

The Single Use Myth

Recycling

Paper vs. Plastic Bags


Paper vs. Plastic Studies

Reusables Greener?

Types of Bags

Litter: The Facts
Public Health

Canada Update

Bags Around the World

The Oil Myth

Made in Canada
Ireland's Bag Tax
Ireland's Bag Tax

Fiction: The Irish bag tax (a de facto ban) significantly reduced plastic bag litter in Ireland.

Fact: No. The bag tax had little to no impact on litter reduction. Bags comprised only 0.75% of total litter in the country, prior to the bag tax. They ended up consuming more resources, more paper and more plastic.

The Facts

  • The Irish bag tax did not solve a litter problem. But it did have a number of unintended consequences with environmental impacts.
  • In 2002, the Republic of Ireland imposed a (EU) €0.17 tax on plastic shopping bags to discourage bag usage because of an overestimated litter concern that plastic shopping bags comprised 5% of the litter stream and the visual pollution was hurting tourism.
  • The reality is that plastic shopping bags (according to Ireland's 2001 litter audits) were only 0.75% of litter.1
  • The tax did not solve the litter problem, only the perception of a problem.
  • Consequences after eight years of the bag tax, the bag tax in Ireland:
    • had a negligible impact on litter reduction which remained at less than 1%
    • increased paper bag litter from 0.35% to 0.38% of total litter, as residents switched from plastic to paper
    • increased the consumption of paper bags (+400%) and plastic (+20%)

The bag tax ultimately failed. Why?

  • First, there was no bag litter problem. Second, the Irish tax failed to take into account that plastic bags are a necessity and have high reuse for household waste. The result was that the tax forced consumers to purchase cheaper, thicker plastic kitchen catcher type bags off the shelf. Sales of kitchen catchers increased +77% which put a disproportionately high percentage of new plastic into the waste stream because the bags are thicker than regular plastic shopping bags.2

More Detail

Real Litter Rate of 0.75%

Reasons Ireland Introduced the Bag Tax to Reduce the Consumption of Plastic Shopping Bags:

 Was the Bag Tax a Success?

Imports of bags into the Republic of Ireland from EU & Non-EU Countries


YEAR
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006

EU
12,204
13,939
16,724
16,345
17,575
18,275
20,730
19,016
19,028
22,379
24,515

NON EU
8,453
6,604
10,439
10,916
12,872
11,571
5,612
5,092
4,149
5,398
7,134

TOTAL
20,747
20,543
27,163
27,261
30,447
29,846
26,342* 
24,108
23,177
27,777
31,649**

Source: Her Majesty's Customs Department Importation Statistics on all bags imported in Ireland.

* Tax implemented March 2002.
** 2006 Unintended impact is MORE plastic used NOT LESS.+20.1


1 LITTER QUANTIFICATION SURVEY Pages 14 & 15
2 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/57346/0016899.pdf Page 18 Shopping bags
3 A Strategy for Developing Recycling Markets in Ireland
4 http://www.litter.ie/Reports/6516%20Final%20Annual%20Report%202011%20300512.pdf
5 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/57346/0016899.pdf page 18


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