Friday 18 October 2019

Plastic straws, cups and cutlery to be banned by minister

Huge clampdown on packaging and single-use plastics as summit thrashes out how plan will work

Richard Bruton: Meeting is planned for today. Photo: Mark Condren
Richard Bruton: Meeting is planned for today. Photo: Mark Condren

Caroline O'Doherty

Plastic straws, plates, cups, cutlery and other single-use items are to be banned in a crackdown on wasteful and polluting plastics.

Levies will also be charged for using non-recyclable plastic packaging on food and other goods, with a possible ban to follow on these too if charging does not deter their use.

The moves will form part of a new waste strategy aimed at radically reducing the amount of day-to-day plastic used and greatly improving recycling rates.

Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton has summoned more than 100 representatives of the waste and packaging industry, consumer and environmental groups and local authorities to a meeting today to thrash out the practicalities of the plan.

Businesses have seen this coming as EU legislation is pushing member states to eliminate non-recyclable plastics, and the objectives form part of the Government's Climate Action Plan.

However, achieving targets here will be a significant task as every person in Ireland generates on average more than 200kg of packaging waste per year, 59kg of which is plastic. That's the highest in the EU and almost twice the European average.

Packaging waste is a source of frustration for consumers with many shopping basket staples sold in excess or non-recyclable packaging.

While some retailers have introduced initiatives to encourage suppliers to change their practices, it is widely accepted that binding regulations are needed.

Proposals to impose levies to drive a transition to recyclable packaging are likely to cause concern, however, with consumers wary of having to carry the cost in the form of higher prices.

Mr Bruton said he would ask those attending today's summit to discuss and come up with ideas on how the strategy should be implemented.

"Managing our resources properly is crucial to securing a better, more sustainable Ireland for future generations," Mr Bruton said.

Reducing food waste is also on today's agenda as the average household throws out a tonne of food each year but only about a quarter of that goes into the brown bin collection.

Food waste is estimated to cost the average household €700 a year, while the total cost to businesses is estimated at €1bn annually.

Tackling waste is an important component of the Climate Action Plan with some 60pc of all greenhouse gas emissions linked to the production and use of raw materials.

The energy subsequently used in producing, sorting, transporting and disposing of waste, whether by landfill, composting or incineration, also worsens carbon output.

"All along the supply chain we can do better - 70pc of food waste is avoidable, half of the material we use is not being segregated properly, two-thirds of plastic used is not on the recycling list and labels are confusing," Mr Bruton said.

The move to ban single-use plastics such as straws, cotton bud sticks, balloon sticks, coffee stirrers and other catering items is also essential to reduce the amount of plastic entering the sea.

Non-recyclable plastics are a particular hazard as they gradually wear down into microplastics which are swallowed by sea birds and fish.

All Government departments and public bodies were instructed to stop buying single-use plastics for use by their own staff earlier this year.

Targets for 2030 include ensuring that all plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable, food waste is halved and landfilling of household waste is reduced to 10pc.

Irish Independent

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