Warning on plastic bag tax plans

Northern Ireland Conservatives chairman, Irwin Armstrong, has questioned the wisdom of the proposed plastic bags levy, which DOE minister Alex Attwood recently put out to consultation. 

“The environmental impact of plastics is certainly a concern”, Irwin explained, “but I’m not sure that a further tax on struggling businesses and hard-pressed consumers is really the solution.  In fact it seems to me that the executive is more interested in gathering revenue by stealth, rather than tackling the ecological issues at hand.”

“As a Conservative my first instinct is always to seek out viable alternatives, rather than to tax or ban.  And there are other choices out there when it comes to plastic bags.  Why can’t we look at measures to encourage people to use biodegradable bags?  The latest technology allows these to be composted and broken down in fewer than 40 days.   How can we incentivise people to reuse existing bags or indeed to do without a bag altogether if they’re just carrying one or two items back from the corner shop?”

“We need to ensure that this issue is thought through properly and that any tax is not introduced as a short-cut or as a cosmetic exercise to provide a £4 million plug toward the massive gap in the Northern Ireland budget.   In this difficult financial climate, every penny counts for businesses and the general public.  We must remember that any money raised by a plastic bag charge will be taken directly out of the pockets of potential employers and consumers.  We need to tackle the disposable culture which is creating such a glut of waste plastic, rather than using it as a pretext to levy more taxes. ”