Just a month after its introduction, the 15c levy on shoppers' plastic bags in the Irish Republic is being judged an unqualified success, with major retailers reporting a drop in demand of over 70%. Environment minister Noel Dempsey imposed the charge, paid by the consumer and collected by the retailer, in a bid to change shopping habits and reduce the 1.2 billion plastic bags used annually in the Republic, which end up littering town and country. "Very few people are buying plastic bags now," said Eamonn Quinn, deputy chairman of Superquinn. At Tesco demand has fallen sharply. Dunnes described the levy as "a phenomenal success". Reusable bags are now so common that the Food Safety Authority warned about a risk of contamination if fresh meat was carried in them. Small plastic bags for meat, poultry, fish and fruit are exempt from the levy. {{NEWS }}