The introduction of a tax on plastic carrier bags tax has seen Ireland become one of the lowest users of plastic bag in Europe.

Before the introduction of the plastic bag levy in March 2002, 95% of shoppers took shopping home in plastic bags. Now the majority of them have abandoned plastic in favour of tougher, reusable bags. 

According to the first official receipts from the Revenue Commissioners, in the three month period since the introduction of the 15 cent levy, over three million euro has been raised. These proceeds are being channelled into a central environmental agency that will be self financing.

When the plastic bag tax was first introduced, Superquinn Manager Eamonn Quinn saw an immediate and dramatic change in shopper behaviour. He now sees very few plastic bags in use around the supermarket.

It jogs something in people’s minds that they really didn't want to give 15 cents to the government, particularly when they had a reusable option.

The recyclable bags are also proving popular with shoppers.

The new bags are great, you don't see all the plastic around the country, so I think its the way to go.

Although one shopper notes

I think they hold more, although sometimes I forget to bring them.

The success of the plastic bag tax is being closely watched by other countries, particularly neighbouring Britain, who hope to have as smooth a transition as Ireland has enjoyed.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 20 August 2002. The reporter is Ray Kennedy.