Skip the NI Direct Bar
Skip navigation

Minister urges retailers to reduce shopping bag use

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Environment Minister, Edwin Poots is asking retailers to reduce the amount of plastic bags they distribute in shops and supermarkets.

Today the Minister met with representatives from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in London to discuss what measures retailers can take to help reduce commercial and domestic waste, by reducing packaging and supporting the reuse and recycling of materials.

The meeting also focused on the results of the latest voluntary commitment by larger supermarkets to reduce the number of carrier bags handed out to customers.

The Minister said: “In Northern Ireland the usage of carrier bags has been cut from 19.8 million in May 2006 to 12.2 million by May 2009, a reduction in numbers of 7.6 million (38% reduction).

This is great news for the environment and I am particularly encouraged that this cut has been achieved against a backdrop of a growing volume in supermarket sales.

“I am keen to build constructive working partnerships with our retailers so that, as well as helping to cut plastic bag numbers further, we can work together to tackle other important environmental issues such as food waste and packaging."

Notes to editors

  1. The Minister met with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) on 28 October 2009, in London.
  2. The BRC represents a number of main UK based retailers including the main supermarkets. These retailers have been operating a voluntary agreement to reduce the number of carrier bags issued to customers. Recently some retailers have started to charge for carrier bags.
  3. The results of the voluntary agreement announced in July 2009 showed that at May 2009 reductions of 48% had been achieved by the main supermarkets in Great Britain, and 38% in Northern Ireland when compared with May 2006.
  4. The Minister has confirmed that, although he has no immediate plans to introduce a charge for carrier bags, he feels that greater effort is required and that he will monitor the situation.
  5. The On-Pack Recycling Label Scheme was launched by the BRC in March 2009 to provide a more consistent system of labelling in relation to recycling information on household packaging. The system has been adopted by a wide range of brands and will assist consumers to recycle more.
  6. All media enquiries should be directed to the DOE Press Office on 028 9054 0003. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.