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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 16:30 GMT
NI shoppers 'would bring their own bags'
Betty McDowell and Sheila McMinn bring their own bags
Betty McDowell and Sheila McMinn: Well equipped
Shops in the Irish Republic have begun to charge their customers 15 cents (nine pence) for every plastic carrier bag they take away with their purchases under a new government tax.

In Belfast shoppers gave their mixed views on whether a similar scheme should be brought into Northern Ireland, to BBC News Online's Jane Bardon.

The Irish Government has estimated that about one billion bags are handed out each year, and it hopes to reduce the environmental impact that producing and discarding the bags causes.

Similarly, many of Northern Ireland's countryside beauty spots and beaches are littered with windblown plastic bags.

Some shoppers in Belfast said their homes were also coming down with mountains of plastic bags, many of which end up being thrown away without being re-used.

Rebecca Mullar:
Rebecca Mullar: "I bring bags, but the shops give me more"

Joanna Kerr from Portstewart said she would start bringing her own bag shopping if she was asked to pay for carrier bags, because the collection in her student house was getting out of control.

"There are eight of us and some of them used to just throw their bags away. But we started collecting them and now we just have far too many," she said.

Myrtle Dignan from Carrickfergus said bringing in a tax on bags "would be a very good idea for reducing waste".

"Often I say in the shops, don't give me a bag, but I find that they don't like to do that - whether for security, so that they know you have paid, or just because they want you to carry around the bags with their names on them.

Edward Whittle:
Edward Whittle: "They mount up until you have to put them in the bin"
"If it became more accepted, I would bring in my own bag because I don't like collecting the plastic bags. I use them for rubbish but then they just end up on the dump."

Edward Whittle from Armagh said he would also support a plastic bag tax in Northern Ireland.

"They are being handed out like nobody's business here, whereas in other European countries they bring their own bags.

"If you keep them they just mount up until you have to put them in the bin."

A student in Belfast, Rebecca Muller from Germany, said bringing in charges for bags would be "a great idea".

"In Germany you have to pay for bags, so most people bring their own bags shopping.

"When I go shopping here I usually take some of my own, but most of the time I am given new ones."

Betty McDowell and Sheila McMinn said they always brought their own shopping bags to the city centre and the supermarket.

Irene Sutherland:
Irene Sutherland: "I use the plastic bags at home"

"I think the plastic bags are too wasteful. And I always bring my own bags because you can put more into them and the handles don't break," Betty McDowell said.

However, Christine Montgomery from Belfast said: "The shops should be able to afford to give you bags when clothes etc cost so much.

"But I would be in favour of using bigger bags or boxes, that you could bring back with you each time, for supermarket shopping."

Kim Gibson from Belfast said: "I wouldn't be happy at all if they brought charges in. I couldn't be bothered with the hassle of bringing a bag into town.

"And a lot of the time I haven't planned to go shopping when I realise I need to get something.

"I would just have to pay."

Irene Sutherland from Scotland said she re-used all the bags she was given while shopping.

"I use them for carrying things around and for rubbish," she said.

Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt
Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt: "We will monitor tax's impact on litter"

"I think you should have the choice. I wouldn't expect to have to carry bags around with me."

Lidl is the only supermarket in Northern Ireland which charges for its standard plastic carrier bags.

However, many supermarkets including Tesco, Marks&Spencer and the Co-op sell more durable re-usable shopping bags in an attempt to persuade their customers to re-use bags.

There are currently no plans to bring a plastic bag tax into Northern Ireland.

However, speaking to BBC News Online Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt said: "We are taking a close interest in the introduction of this tax and the impact it has on litter.

"Northern Ireland may not appear to have the same problem with plastic bags but I am keen to make sure that resources are protected and not wasted."

If the Northern Ireland Assembly wanted to see such a tax brought in, it would have to ask the chancellor of the exchequer to set it up.

See also:

04 Mar 02 | Europe
Shoppers face plastic bag tax
04 Mar 02 | Europe
A world drowning in litter
02 Mar 02 | Europe
Plastic bag levy on way
14 May 01 | South Asia
Bombay gets tough on plastic bags
03 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan to ban free plastic bags
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