Northern Ireland Carrier Bag Levy Annual Statistics 2020/21 released

Date published: 19 August 2021

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has published the Northern Ireland carrier bag levy annual statistics for 2020/21.

DARD statistics

This statistical report is updated annually and the published statistics relate to the carrier bag levy that commenced on 8 April 2013. The figures relate to the number of bags dispensed by retailers in Northern Ireland between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 as notified to the Department by 30 June 2021.

The Key Points are

  • During the eighth year of operation, 56.2 million carrier bags were dispensed by retailers under the carrier bag levy in Northern Ireland.
  • This was 30.2% lower than the previous year, with 24.3 million fewer bags dispensed. The number of lower rate bags dispensed decreased by 26.0% between 2019/20 and 2020/21 while the number of upper rate bags dispensed decreased by 34.0%.
  • The number of carrier bags dispensed in 2020/21 is still markedly lower than the baseline figure prior to the introduction of the levy, which was estimated at 300 million bags in 2012. Year 8 of the 5p levy saw an 81.3% reduction in bag numbers dispensed annually compared to the baseline figure which meant approximately 243.8 million fewer bags in circulation in 2020/21 and an estimated 1.7 billion fewer since the introduction of the levy.
  • The proceeds of the levy for 2020/21 totalled £2.2 million, a decrease of £2.2 million (50.5%) from the previous year.

Further Information

Download the report.

Notes to editors: 

1. This is the eighth year of the carrier bag levy in Northern Ireland. These are the final official statistics for 2020/21. The Department intends to publish 2021/22 figures in August 2022. Reports from previous years can be accessed from:

2.  Bags which are exempt from the levy, such as those used solely to contain unpackaged raw food or hot foods / hot drinks, are not included in the data. Retailers are not required to record this information. The main exemptions are listed on carrier bag levy section of nidirect and the full list is available from Schedule 1 of the Regulations.

3. The figures are based on data supplied by 1,907 retailers in Northern Ireland as notified to the Department by 30 June 2021. Note that this is not the number of actual premises at which carrier bags are dispensed, as one retailer can submit returns for more than one outlet.

4. The Department’s estimate of the number of bags dispensed in 2012 (300 million) is derived from UK-wide Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) data for 2008. The data were adjusted to take account of reductions in bag usage as a result of voluntary retailer measures since 2008.

5. The figures presented in the release will not equate precisely to the total bags dispensed in the year due to the 30 June cut-off date applied for the production of Official Statistics. For each year reported it has been estimated that the number of bags notified by 30 June has been around 3% lower than the actual total number of bags dispensed in that year.

6. These figures have undergone audit by Carrier Bag Levy Team, which has responsibility for administration and collection of the levy and ensuring that sellers comply with the Regulations. Guidance on carrier bag levy enforcement is available from:

7. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.

8. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office at:

9. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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