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Northern Ireland has launched a public consultation on the introduction of a compulsory plastic bag levy for retail customers on July 20, according to various news sources in the UK.

The Department of Environment (DoE) of Northern Ireland has launched a public consultation on the proposal, along with an outline of the plans, which estimates that bag usage in the principality could fall by as much as 95%, or 200 million pieces per year, as a result.

The consultation will run until October 12 and people can make suggestions as to how much they feel the bags should cost. The DoE intended to introduce the tax no later than April 1, 2013.

Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood said that the costs of a bag would be at least as high as what Dublin, Republic of Ireland started to charge such kind of levy around 10 years ago. A charge for plastic bags was first introduced in the Irish Republic at 0.15 euro in 2002. It is currently 0.22 euro per bag.

The Welsh Assembly has introduced a minimum charge of five pence per carrier bag that will come into force in October this year. England and Scotland do not have any plans to introduce a charge for bags.

However, independent retailers are afraid that the levy could be harmful to businesses. Some criticize the government as merely trying to raise £4 million in revenue from the bag tax to plug a hole in their budgetary shortfall.
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