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Carrier Bag Levy

The Carrier Bag Levy was introduced in Northern Ireland on 8 April 2013. Retailers must now charge at least 5p for new single use carrier bags. The main aim is to protect the environment by cutting substantially the number of carrier bags we use.

Carrier Bag Levy Statistics – Year 1 can be viewed here

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, the Carrier Bag Levy applies to all new single use carrier bags.

When does the levy apply?

You will be charged for single use carrier bags when:

  • you buy goods 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 the proceeds of the 5p levy are payable to the Department of the Environment.

When does the levy not apply?

The levy does not apply when the bags are:

  • to contain take-away hot food and hot drinks
  • solely to contain certain items such as unpackaged food, seeds and bulbs, axes/ knives/ razor blades, goods contaminated by soil and some medicinal products
  • to carry goods purchased in an airport after you clear security
  • for promotional/free items (such as catalogues)
  • used when you are purchasing a service (for example: shoe repair or laundry)
  • of certain sizes and used solely to contain packaged uncooked meat or fish
  • certain types of small bags
  • specialist bags such as mail order and courier bags

Where does the money go?

The money raised will be used to help communities, charities, businesses, schools and voluntary organisations to deliver local projects to improve the environment for everyone.

£2.2m in receipts from the levy will be used to enhance the NGO Challenge Fund 2014.

Application forms and guidance notes can be downloaded from Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) website or alternatively you can contact them at

89 Loopland Drive

Retailers’ responsibilities

Retailers must, when applicable:

  • charge customers at least 5p for each new single use carrier bag
  • pay the net proceeds of the levy to the Department of the Environment
  • Information for retailers

To contact the carrier bag levy team

More useful links