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The Future of Plastics in Ireland – Waste Reduction Bill 2018

Posted: Jun 19, 2018 by Instinctif Partners

In June 2017 the Irish Green Party introduced the Waste Reduction Bill 2017 to very mixed reactions. On the one hand, environmental groups championed the bill and the proposals it laid out, however the reaction from industry stakeholders was significantly less enthusiastic. The proposals in the Bill if adapted will have serious financial consequences on manufacturers of service packaging in Ireland and across Europe.

 

Waste Reduction Bill 2017

The Waste Reduction Bill is by many accounts an extreme piece of legislation. As well as proposing a deposit return scheme for beverage cartons, the bill calls for a total ban on all single-use, non-compostable cups and tableware. Coffee cups have become a particular cause for concern for the Green Party, environmental groups and the public with one of the country’s largest retailer owned coffee franchises Frank & Honest declaring that all of their cups will now be compostable. Several local authority buildings have also announced that they only use compostable cups, as well as the coffee shop in Leinster House – the official government building in Dublin, which followed many other smaller chains and independent coffee shops. The issue with coffee cups is not the paper or the lid, but the plastic lining on the inside of the cup. Currently there are no facilities in Ireland that can provide this recycling service. Groups like Sick of Plastic and VOICE Ireland have held protests and awareness days designed to pressure the government into adapting the bill.

However, the Minister for Communication, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten and in Government party Fine Gael have not directly announced support for the Bill in its entirety despite cross party pressure from the opposition. However, Naughten has announced that his department are considering launching a Deposit Return Scheme pilot in select areas around the country.

There are multiple negative issues foreseen by stakeholders with a deposit return scheme. Small retailers face difficulties with implementing Return Vending Machines due to lack of funding and space, fearing that their businesses will suffer at the hands of larger retail outlets who can afford to install RVMs and have the space to do so. There will also be an added cost to consumers which is yet to be addressed. Repak, Ireland’s packaging recycling non-profit has voiced its objection to the scheme as they say it will have a negative impact on their already efficient kerbside collection of recyclables.

 

European Strategy for Plastics

The Green Party’s proposal to ban all single use cups and tableware however directly contradicts entirely Article 18 of Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. Action has been taken against attempt to ban all single-use plastics in France citing the directive as the reason which makes the likelihood of this bill passing as it is currently proposed extremely unlikely. The European Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee voted on 24 January to reject proposals allowing EU countries to introduce national bans on single use packaging, citing that such measures would fundamentally undermine the EU packaging waste directive. Again, in March, the European Parliament voted in defence of the single market for packaging stating that issues like hygiene and consumer safety must be taken into account when developing environmental regulations on packaging.

 

What’s next?

As citizens of Ireland and the rest of the world have changed the way they consume food and beverages, with more people consuming these products on the go. Industry argues that it is not how we consume that needs to be changed, but the way in which we recycle the packaging that must be adjusted. Up until January 2018 Ireland exported 95% of its plastic recyclables to China. Since China made the decision to stop accepting our waste, Ireland which is the top producer of plastic in the EU must find a solution to its growing problem. There is a clear need to facilitate more and better collection and recycling of packaging like coffee cups, and to focus on litter prevention rather than introduce legislation that does not take the modern consumer lifestyle into account.

It remains to be seen how the Waste Reduction Bill will progress. The Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment is due to publish its report on the Bill any day now. Though Minister Naughten has not supported the Bill, he has hinted that a “latte levy” may still be on the table for non-compostable cups, as well as declaring that the cups are now no longer recyclable, much to the dismay of both the packaging industry and the major waste management companies operating in the country. Stakeholders from both sides are divided and eagerly awaiting the next steps, racing to implement a solution that supports their own side of the argument.

In June 2017 the Irish Green Party introduced the Waste Reduction Bill 2017 to very mixed reactions. On the one hand, environmental groups championed the bill and the proposals it laid out, however the reaction from industry stakeholders was significantly less enthusiastic. The proposals in the Bill if adapted will have serious financial consequences on manufacturers of service packaging in Ireland and across Europe.

 

Waste Reduction Bill 2017

The Waste Reduction Bill is by many accounts an extreme piece of legislation. As well as proposing a deposit return scheme for beverage cartons, the bill calls for a total ban on all single-use, non-compostable cups and tableware. Coffee cups have become a particular cause for concern for the Green Party, environmental groups and the public with one of the country’s largest retailer owned coffee franchises Frank & Honest declaring that all of their cups will now be compostable. Several local authority buildings have also announced that they only use compostable cups, as well as the coffee shop in Leinster House – the official government building in Dublin, which followed many other smaller chains and independent coffee shops. The issue with coffee cups is not the paper or the lid, but the plastic lining on the inside of the cup. Currently there are no facilities in Ireland that can provide this recycling service. Groups like Sick of Plastic and VOICE Ireland have held protests and awareness days designed to pressure the government into adapting the bill.

However, the Minister for Communication, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten and in Government party Fine Gael have not directly announced support for the Bill in its entirety despite cross party pressure from the opposition. However, Naughten has announced that his department are considering launching a Deposit Return Scheme pilot in select areas around the country.

There are multiple negative issues foreseen by stakeholders with a deposit return scheme. Small retailers face difficulties with implementing Return Vending Machines due to lack of funding and space, fearing that their businesses will suffer at the hands of larger retail outlets who can afford to install RVMs and have the space to do so. There will also be an added cost to consumers which is yet to be addressed. Repak, Ireland’s packaging recycling non-profit has voiced its objection to the scheme as they say it will have a negative impact on their already efficient kerbside collection of recyclables.

 

European Strategy for Plastics

The Green Party’s proposal to ban all single use cups and tableware however directly contradicts entirely Article 18 of Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. Action has been taken against attempt to ban all single-use plastics in France citing the directive as the reason which makes the likelihood of this bill passing as it is currently proposed extremely unlikely. The European Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee voted on 24 January to reject proposals allowing EU countries to introduce national bans on single use packaging, citing that such measures would fundamentally undermine the EU packaging waste directive. Again, in March, the European Parliament voted in defence of the single market for packaging stating that issues like hygiene and consumer safety must be taken into account when developing environmental regulations on packaging.

 

What’s next?

As citizens of Ireland and the rest of the world have changed the way they consume food and beverages, with more people consuming these products on the go. Industry argues that it is not how we consume that needs to be changed, but the way in which we recycle the packaging that must be adjusted. Up until January 2018 Ireland exported 95% of its plastic recyclables to China. Since China made the decision to stop accepting our waste, Ireland which is the top producer of plastic in the EU must find a solution to its growing problem. There is a clear need to facilitate more and better collection and recycling of packaging like coffee cups, and to focus on litter prevention rather than introduce legislation that does not take the modern consumer lifestyle into account.

It remains to be seen how the Waste Reduction Bill will progress. The Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment is due to publish its report on the Bill any day now. Though Minister Naughten has not supported the Bill, he has hinted that a “latte levy” may still be on the table for non-compostable cups, as well as declaring that the cups are now no longer recyclable, much to the dismay of both the packaging industry and the major waste management companies operating in the country. Stakeholders from both sides are divided and eagerly awaiting the next steps, racing to implement a solution that supports their own side of the argument.