Saturday 21 September 2019

EU pushed to change rules 'urgently' so we can introduce ban on plastic straws here

Communications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: Tom Burke
Communications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Ireland is to push for changes to EU law so that we can introduce a ban on plastic utensils including straws.

Environment Minister Denis Naughten wants to force shops and takeaways to stop using polystyrene products when serving food.

He also hopes to end the practice of pubs and restaurants handing out disposable plastic straws.

The Irish Independent previously revealed Mr Naughten was researching how best to introduce a so-called 'latte levy' on coffee cups.

However, since that story broke last November there has been a noticeable shift towards reusable cups.

The minister is now turning his efforts towards the wider use of plastics.

A spokesperson confirmed that a ban on plastic containers and cutlery is on the cards.

But she noted that at present such a move would be contrary to European law and could result in significant fines.

The European Commission is expected to make a significant announcement in this area later in the month.

"Minister Naughten wants to be able to ban straws and polystyrene products [some fast food outlets still use polystyrene] and all single-use plastics such as cutlery and non-recyclable coffee cups.

"He can't do this yet as it is contrary to EU law but he has been pressing the European Commission to move urgently on this to allow member states act without being in breach of EU law," the spokesperson said.

She added that Mr Naughten also wants "to focus on solving our soft plastics problem [cling film, any soft plastic wrapping] which is spiralling and filling up our landfills".

The UK is also considering a ban on plastic straws, while in the United States a number of coastal cities have already implemented restrictions.

These include Miami Beach and Fort Myers, Malibu, Manhattan Beach and Berkeley.

Mr Naughten is due before an Oireachtas committee today to discuss waste reduction plans which includes a call for a national deposit and return scheme for bottles.

He will commit to a pilot scheme, possibly in Cashel, Co Tipperary - but the logistics of it will have to be thoroughly worked out with the community and businesses there.

Mr Naughten is not convinced a deposit and return scheme will work as bottle recycling in this country is already above the European norms.

According to the Green Party, which is advocating for such a scheme, it would cost in the region of €270m.

Mr Naughten will tell the committee that he is not prepared to set aside that amount of taxpayers' money without evidence that a deposit and return scheme would have a significant impact on consumer behaviour.

Irish Independent

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