DAERA Minister announces temporary change to carrier bag law to aid fight against Covid-19

Date published: 31 March 2020

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has announced a temporary change to carrier bag regulations in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19.


With immediate effect, carrier bags used by retailers to deliver groceries directly via home delivery services will be free of charge. The amendment to the Carrier Bag legislation will be in effect for a six-month period in the midst of the unprecedented challenges faced by us all at present.

Minster Poots said: “I am pleased to announce this temporary measure to the carrier bag levy regulations and will form part of our ongoing fight against the spread of COVID-19.”

“Since its inception almost seven years ago, the multi-million pounds proceeds of the Carrier Bag Levy have been used to support the environment across Northern Ireland.  And, today’s announcement is another way in which the amended law can be applied to aid us all.”

The decision to amend the carrier bag legislation has been taken in line with public health guidance and is aimed at the reduction of face-to-face contact between delivery drivers and members of the public who have ordered groceries online.

By providing bags free of charge the necessity for drivers to enter people’s homes and unpack delivery crates will stop. Instead, bags of groceries will be left outside and so the need to have direct contact with customers will become redundant.

In this way all concerned can adhere to the official government guidance on social distancing. Another benefit of the move will be that it will speed up delivery services making life a little easier for everyone at the moment.

Minister Poots concluded: “This temporary measure is for home delivery only and the Carrier Bag Levy will continue to be applied to all other bags used.”

“I would also ask any retailers when making returns to make use of online opportunities to help reduce the associated risks.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 came into operation on 8 April 2013 and refer to bags of ANY material (not solely plastic) used for the purpose of enabling goods to be taken away or delivered from a place where goods are sold.


    In schedule 1 of the Regulations, carrier bags which are exempt are listed and this amendment will now be an additional exemption on a temporary basis.

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