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Coming Soon: The Plastic Bag Tax

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Irish retailers could soon face a massive tax bill for placing goods in plastic bags - or rather their customers will pay.

But how much - and what exactly is -for tax purposes - a plastic bag, anyhow?

Contained in The Waste Management Amendment Bill 2001 which has already passed into law is a provision for a levy of up to 15p/19c per plastic bag. Monies collected will be hypothecated (ring-fenced) for an Environment Fund - just like money collected from the Landfill Tax.

That's the outline. Detail is notable by its absence, as IBEC, an Irish employer's federation, notes.

The Dept. of The Environment and Revenue Commissioners is taking soundings from representatives from the retail, plastic and recycling industries from the mid-August. The aim is to get the regulations finalised by early October at the latest, following which there will be a lead-in period for the collection of the tax.

Apparently, The Dept. of The Environment thinks the plastic bag levy will be a tax on consumers only - there is no implication for retailers. But who's going to the totting up and the collecting?

This is a minor concern: all in all, it sounds like a boon to paper bag makers and a pain in the butt for plastic bag makers. Good - bring it over to Britain. More bio-degradable packaging now.

A plastic bag tax is rather less burdensome in its enforcement implications and cost to the computer industry than the WEEE Directive, passed by the EU last month.

This is set to come into national law next year, and will see the IT and telecoms industries within 46 months of implementation forced to recover 75 per cent by weight of obsolete equipment, with 65 per cent recycled for further use. Inevitably some costs will pass onto users - corporates are equally guilty of throwing computers into landfill sites.

But anything that reduces the amount of noxious material hitting landfill sites (lead and cadmium levels in monitors are particularly harmful) and poisoning the water table is to be welcome.

It is time for the producers -and their corporate customers - to face up to their responsibilities to the rest of us. ®

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