An independent survey carried out on behalf of the Northern Ireland Department of Environment has revealed high levels of public support for a plastic bag levy.

According to the poll, 66% of consumers said they would welcome a bag tax.

The idea was first put forward last year, with a proposal for a 10p charge for single-use carrier bags in the hope of raising £3.8m a year for the government.

Environment minister Alex Attwood welcomed the findings. “The results suggest significant support for a carrier bag levy,” he said. “I am especially encouraged by the fact that so many respondents recognised the very positive impact it would have on the environment.”

However, the survey did highlight potential drawbacks for a plastic bag charge. It revealed that 42% of businesses surveyed were concerned about additional charges for their customers during a period of recession.

The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association opposes the plan and has urged the education of customers to cut down on plastic bag use rather than a levy.