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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 20 Jun 2017

Vol. 954 No. 1

Waste Reduction Bill 2017: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for a ban on single-use non-compostable cups and other tableware and for the introduction of deposit and return schemes for beverage containers.

This Waste Reduction Bill 2017 is a Bill which does what it says on the tin. It seeks to reduce waste and on that tin, which will be a recyclable tin, we as consumers could get a refund to help in that process.

This is a simple Bill. There are two key measures which we believe would be hugely beneficial in a number of different ways, introducing procedures that are at work in a number of other countries. It has been tried and tested and it is time that it is introduced here.

The first measure referred to is the introduction, as I stated, of a deposit back on sealed containers. It allows for amendment of the 1996 Waste Management Act to give the Minister powers in that regard. It is to reduce the amount of waste, in particular of plastic and aluminium cans which are currently being dumped rather than going into recycling.

People may be familiar with the broad statistics. Our use of plastics has risen from approximately 5 million tonnes per year globally in the 1950s to approximately 110 tonnes today, 8 million tonnes of which is ending up in the oceans, polluting the natural environment. It is the equivalent of a dumper truck of waste plastic being dumped every minute. It is projected that by 2050, the way we are going, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. That, in the end, is a disaster for everyone. For nature, and in terms of our consumption of the plastic through the system, this has to stop.

In Ireland, we are consuming approximately 200,000 tonnes of plastic per annum. Of that, 70,000 tonnes is in pet bottles - the simple plastic container bottles many of which are not being recycled. Only a small percentage, approximately 40%, are recycled currently. The remainder are ending up in landfill or are being dumped, and that is a huge problem.

Similarly, with aluminium, we are using approximately 7.5 tonnes of aluminium per year in cans which are not recycled. It amounts to approximately 460 million cans every year.

Anyone who is involved in cleaning up their local environment also knows it. Anyone involved in a canal or river clean-up knows it. Anyone who goes down to the canal this week with the fine weather will see cans and bottles everywhere. In the case of my river, the Dodder, we do regular clean-ups. The major problem we have is collecting bottles and cans.

Under this scheme, we would introduce a deposit return of 10 cent. The proposals presented by Environmental Pillar, Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment and others back up the case and show that we can create approximately 3,000 jobs going towards the circular economy and do so in a way that is pro-recycling. A 10 cent deposit return would cost approximately €276 million but funding for that could come from a charge on the manufacturers, the people providing the cans. This costs the Exchequer nothing. It benefits the consumer and it benefits in terms of savings from lower landfill costs and higher effective recycling.

The examples from other countries where this has been introduced indicate that it works. In the Netherlands, those involved get approximately 95% of bottles back. In Sweden, the corresponding figure is approximately 84%. This would have a major material effect on cleaning up litter, improving recycling and reducing the effects of pollution in our natural environment.

People will be aware that when we launched this scheme last week we went to the coffee dock in the LH2000 building – it was a simple measure. I want to thank Margaret, Jacinta and Charles, who provided us with the cups we go through in this House. We go through thousands of disposable plastic paper cups that are not recyclable. It is a disgrace that we allow that to continue. We need to do what France, San Francisco and Korea have done recently. We need to ban non-recyclable disposable cartons and cups.

An alternative is available that is made from a bio-plastic rather than an oil-based plastic. It is compostable within a matter of weeks. We can put this material in the compost bin and it naturally return to the environment. It has a lower carbon footprint. There is less of a problem in terms of litter. The current materials are staying in the environment for decades and, in some cases, centuries. We need to stop that and do this by sensible and intelligent regulation. These two regulations would have a major effect. They would be far bigger than the plastic bag levy, which was introduced some years ago and was hugely popular. These would be similarly popular.

We will be looking for support from other parties. I might make each party indicate whether they could support the Bill. I might create a matrix of cups or build a little pyramid of cups. For each party that adds their view in support of it, I will put the name of that party on the cup and put it up in the canteen. This will show who is in favour of these simple intelligent measures. They make economic and environmental sense and they clean up our environment.

I hope this Bill can be agreed by all parties. It is simple and clear. It does what it says on the tin. It reduces waste and saves money. It gives money back into the hands of the consumer. What is not to like about that?

Thank you, Deputy Ryan. I take it the Bill is not being opposed, Taoiseach?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.