Prevention of Single-Use Plastic Waste: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

"That Dáil Éireann:

acknowledges the gravity of the crisis caused for wildlife and for rivers, lakes and oceans by the quantities of plastics which are finding their way into the environment;

recognises that the production of each tonne of plastic causes the emission of six tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere;

notes the success of deposit and return schemes in other jurisdictions;

emphasises the importance of the 'polluter pays' principle and the transition to a circular economy;

calls on the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to exercise his powers under the Waste Management Act 1996 to:

— establish a deposit and return scheme for closed drinks containers, subject to any appropriate exemptions;

— require those who produce or import such containers or put them on the market to cover the costs of operating the scheme in line with the established practice of producer responsibility;

— impose a general ban on single use plastic items such as plastic cutlery, straws, stirrers and other tableware, with appropriate exemptions for medical and other essential uses;

— impose a two-tier levy on disposable cups for beverages etc., of €0.15 for noncompostable coffee cups and €0.05 for compostable coffee cups; and

— devote the proceeds of this levy to public awareness and to the development of infrastructure for effective disposal of compostable coffee cups and other compostable materials; and

calls on the Government to:

— recognise the support which the Dáil and the Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment gave to the Waste Reduction Bill 2017; and

— approve the issuing of a money message for the Waste Reduction Bill 2017."

How did we get here? It is beyond frustrating that it has come to the point that Deputy Eamon Ryan and I have to bring the Waste Reduction Bill 2017 again before the Dáil. This Government has blocked and obstructed at every stage the opportunity for this Dáil and, in particular, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment to do their job, to deliver and to work with legislation that has passed Second Stage. The former Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, consistently refused to issue a money order for the Waste Reduction Bill 2017 because this Government does not want to act on climate change. My understanding is that the new Minister with that responsibility will maintain that refusal tonight and take the cynical step of kicking the can down the road with a national review.

This Government does not want to take action on plastic pollution. It does not want to take action on the health of our seas or our environment. It seems to have to be dragged kicking and screaming as slowly and reluctantly as possible into the tiniest amount of climate action it can possibly get away with. Children in primary and secondary schools up and down the country are doing more than the Government to protect our environment. So many people get it. It is a pity and a shame that the Government would not take its lead from the youth of our country who are demanding action on plastic waste. The Minister needs to sit up and take notice because he is way behind the curve on this.

We do not have much time to deal with these problems and challenges. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC's, report two weeks ago showed us that the clock is ticking on climate action. We have 12 years to make a difference. By the time the Government waits around and twiddles its thumbs with a review, as it did when my Green Party colleague, Senator Grace O'Sullivan, put forward a Bill to ban microbeads two years ago, which it is only getting around to introducing now, our precious marine environments will be even more beset with plastic. We will reach a point not that far into the future when we will have to change our phrases and idioms. It will be a case of "there is plenty more plastic in the sea" because plastic will outweigh fish.

We have seen time and again when the cameras are on Ministers that they say the right thing and run slick public relations campaigns but away from the bright lights, they do not care. In a keynote speech to the European Parliament and during his election campaign to become leader of Fine Gael, the Taoiseach made all the right noises and said all the right thing. He said climate action would be his main focus. Ireland would be a laggard no more, he proclaimed, but we are further behind than ever before. Similarly with this Bill the Government says the right things in Dáil debates. It briefs the media on the issue positively but when the substantive work needs to be done in the committee rooms, it is a different story. The Government shamefully uses administrative manoeuvres to block progress. The truth is it is more interesting in protecting itself and its electoral prospects than protecting our rivers, streams, seas and lakes.

This is an important Bill. It tackles the core of the plastic problem that plagues our country and our world - the trillions of disposable products that are used for just a few minutes but can pollute our environment for centuries. We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment, killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats. It is vital that we act and just as vital that we take that action now. In Ireland, we produce 210,000 tonnes of plastic every year and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, only 40% of plastic packaging is recycled. Ireland uses and disposes of 200 million coffee cups annually. The measures in this Bill are necessary and the Government knows that, so what exactly is it afraid of? Does it simply not get it or not want to get it? It is disgracefully nonchalant about one of the most critical challenges facing us. This is an opportunity to lead but the Government is content to wait until it is pushed when these measures become mandatory under EU rules.

The public knows these measures are necessary. We watched "Drowning in Plastic" on BBC and we watched "Blue Planet II" in horror. We read the story of the whale that died from eating more than 80 pieces of plastic rubbish. We have seen the photographs of a stork trapped in a plastic bag and of a turtle with a straw trapped in its nose. The Irish people know we need to take action for our future and our children's future. They believe we can still make a difference. They want to make a difference and we can have change.

The Waste Reduction Bill 2017 presents an opportunity to have a positive impact on tackling plastic waste but the Government has chosen cynical further delaying tactics like the national review it will shortly outline, further slowing down the process of change. That is not a surprise given its appalling track record on protecting our environment. Its national development plan was not even climate-proofed. The Minister's party, Fine Gael, recently had a green week not comprehending the irony of giving a single week in the year to being selectively green, where it tried to pass the blame and responsibility for its own policy failings to the people of Ireland, deflecting its own failures. The Taoiseach highlighted the benefits of switching to a reusable coffee cup while Government is blocking the Waste Reduction Bill 2018. The level of shallow doublespeak, contradictions and evasive inconsistencies beggars belief. All the facts and figures about plastic that I have just outlined, and that my colleague, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and Deputies around this House, will reference over the next two hours have been outlined in this House previously.

We held a Second Stage debate on this Bill facilitated by the Labour Party, and the Oireachtas committee has done detailed work on investigating and analysing the impact this Bill would have, recommending that it progress to the next Stage. Parties across the political spectrum and Independents, including Senators and Members of the European Parliament, have called for similar schemes and the Bill is supported by 60 Tidy Towns committees and the Friends of the Earth 'Sick of Plastic' campaign petition which has more than 15,000 signatures. However, the Government refuses to allow the Waste Reduction Bill 2017 to progress.

I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I wish him well in his new role but I am afraid it will likely disappoint anyone who cares about plastic waste. I believe Government intends to abstain on our motion and to initiate a review on the best way to tackle this issue. Is that not what Committee Stage is for? Is it not to tease through legislation forensically and tweak it to make it as fair and effective as possible? The best way to make progress on this issue is to listen to all the experts, activists, youth of our country, schoolchildren and legislators and respect the voice of the Dáil to issue the money order for the Waste Reduction Bill 2017 and let the members of the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment do their job.

I learnt today that I am still an innocent and gullible young man.

At lunchtime today I was on RTÉ's "News at One" discussing the motion and I felt in my heart of hearts we were going to make progress. I thought that because today was the day when the latest scientific research survey showed that plastics are in our food chain; those plastics are in us. Tomorrow, the European Parliament will debate the new plastics legislation coming from the European Commission and from what I hear our Government will stand firm in support. No doubt the Fine Gael Members will be there saying we will go for a 90% recycling rate for plastic bottles, which has been the only contentious part of our Bill. I said to myself that the Government will surely support tonight's motion.

All summer we have heard this kind of thing from Fine Gael Ministers. I saw the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, at some convention claiming how good they were because there was a glass bottle on the table. The Taoiseach was in a coffee shop tut-tutting anybody who might use a single-use cup. They are getting the environmental message completely wrong because they are saying it is all about the consumer doing it and nothing to do with the Government.

We need to change. We need to make it easy for people to do the right thing. We need to be radical in taking plastic out of use because it is doing such harm to the environment, using up resources, and polluting our air and seas. We hear today and we fear today that it is also polluting our own bodies. I thought to myself that surely Fine Gael would support us.

When I got the news from the reporter on "News at One" that the Government was not going to oppose our Bill, I said it was great that we were making another step forward - the sort of step we made when Deputy Pringle's Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill 2016 was passed. We can do it in this Dáil like when we banned plastic bags as, in fairness, Fianna Fáil did years ago or the smoking ban. There are loads of examples when we take steps forward. I thought today would be one of those days. When I came out and was walking down the corridor, a journalist pulled me aside and told me that the Government was not doing anything; it would not give a money order and did not want this to proceed. It will do another review. This is a do-nothing exercise from a do-nothing Government on the environment.

We do not need to rehearse; we need to debate the politics of this because the contents of the Bill are as simple as it gets. Almost two years ago, we published the Bill banning single-use plastic items such as cups, plates, knives and forks that could be easily replaced. It proposes putting a levy on those cups so that we switch towards reusable or compostable cups instead and setting up a new compostable municipal collection system so that all those new paper or card-based items can be collected and turned into compost and not plastic waste. Most important, it proposes introducing a deposit-refund scheme on plastic bottles and cans which would operate relatively simply. A levy of 20 cent would be put on the container when it is sold with the refund going to the consumer when it is returned. It would be paid for by increasing the contribution from the business sector - the companies manufacturing them - from currently about 0.2 cent to 1 cent per container. It would also be funded by the high-quality recycling material we would collect in this process. This has been done in many countries in the world. We would not need a major new review. This is not like going to the moon or anything extraordinary. This is tried and tested in many different jurisdictions.

It would also be paid for by the savings we would make by not having to spend so much on litter collection in our most beautiful spots. Any of us, who are involved in litter clean-ups in canals, on beaches and elsewhere knows that this is one of the big litter problems. By definition, it tends to be worst in the most scenic spots because that is where people tend to go when the weather is good and, unfortunately, they leave behind the plastic bottles and the cans. Rather than us having to spend all that time picking it up, we can create a system where, as the international evidence shows, we can reach a 90% recycling level for those bottles with a deposit-refund scheme. I would love the Department or anyone else to present evidence of the alternative to achieve that target.

Tomorrow in Europe, the Fine Gael members will be beating their chests, claiming to be great in going to a 90% target. Meanwhile, at home in the Dáil, Fine Gael is refusing to support the legislation that would deliver it. The Taoiseach came out with nonsense today, saying that this was European legislation. In this instance, there was a party willing to present the legislation way ahead of the European Commission and we have been blocked ever since by Fine Gael. Now the Taoiseach today is pretending this is European stuff and nothing to do with us, which is such rubbish.

We need to act and we can act. We do not need to wait for Europe to force us to do something; we are well able to do it ourselves. We have shown it in the past. The Irish people are good at this. When we start doing things, we actually like to be good at it rather than all the time being seen as the one Europe chases after when we fail to deliver on the environmental directives that are in place.

I believe this would also be good for business. In drafting the Bill, we were inspired by what the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is doing, working with business. It is not kicking business. A company such as Coca Cola in the UK claims to be supportive of this position while in Ireland it is not. That is not sustainable.

If we are to achieve the levels of recycling of packaging we need, Repak cannot just defend the status quo. Business has its responsibilities here, but it is also proper business. How can a company sell a brand when it is part of this wasteful littering system where every 1 kg of plastic we use creates 6 kg of climate emissions in the atmosphere? We need to take a leap towards environmental sustainability.

I do not know if others members of the Joint Committee on Climate Action feel the same as me. In the four presentations the Secretaries General have made to that committee so far, I have been shocked at the absolute lack of vision, ambition, sense of leadership and direction. I fear they are getting their signal from their political masters. How could it be that every Department is coming in with no ambition and no sense of the scale of what we need to do?

In plastics, it is not just the provisions of our Bill. The good thing about the Bill is that it uses existing legislation. It even gives the Government significant time. It does not require this to be done tomorrow. It just provides a signal to the public service and industry that we are going in this direction and they have two, three or four years to make it happen. If the Government wants to conduct a review, that is fine. It has four years to conduct the review, but it needs to send the signal and show some leadership, be willing to be brave not engage in political games such as the Taoiseach saying this is down to Europe and nothing to do with us. I think it has to do with us and this Dáil.

It is not the only step. If we take this step, then we take the next step to require retailers to cut out the use of non-necessary plastic packaging. We should also require them to cut out the non-recyclable plastic packaging. We know we have to do this. We know that within Europe this will happen. Why should we on every occasion say that we will not do it ourselves, but wait for someone to tell us to do it, which is what I fear the Minister, Deputy Bruton, has been advised by his Department? That would be a shame.

It is a shame on this Dáil that the Government is willing to use the technicality of needing a money order to denigrate and lower the importance of Opposition legislation, particularly where that legislation is absolutely bang in tune with what the European Commission has proposed and European Parliament will agree tomorrow we have to do. As we happen to be a year ahead of it, it is not outside the ordinary or outside conventional policy thinking. It is absolutely in tune with the direction of legislation elsewhere. Having done our research in the detailed scrutiny stage, the Government has consistently stalled the legislation and refused to issue the money order. Coming out today claiming it is all in favour of this while using a technicality to stop the whole thing happening represents a real wasted opportunity. Minority government is not all about the Government doing as little as possible and stopping anyone else doing anything. There is strength in this Dáil when it passes legislation which sometimes comes from other than the Government side.

Carrying out the scrutiny has been useful. I accept we could do more scrutiny and be involved in the Committee Stage. That is what we do; we test out the argument. However, the process here has been wrong. The process was wrong in the committee where the final stages of our discussions on the Bill took place in private rather in public where the Minister was giving all his reasons for opposing the Bill.

It has also been wrong in the sense that the Department's story has changed every few months. First, we were told there would be a levy on cups and then that there would not. Then we were told there would be a pilot scheme in Cashel in Tipperary, as if one could hermetically seal Cashel and know a Tipperary bottle from a non-Tipperary bottle, unless it is a Tipperary Water bottle. The stories changed at every turn and we have been blocked at every turn. It is about time we stopped blocking environmental aspiration and inspiration and started working collectively to make the leap. This State needs to make the leap to be a green country. We can be a green country. People are ready and dying to do this.

We know this Bill has public support like no other we have ever produced. It has been blocked by Fine Gael. Every time the party comes out with the latest video or social media information about how great Fine Gael is for the environment, it should note its record will be shot if it does not let this Bill proceed to Committee Stage. It is not an unreasonable ask. We are willing to amend the Bill. We would listen to every argument, examine every figure and do the sums in every way the Department might want, but carrying out another review in which nothing will happen and waiting for Europe to tell us to act is not good enough.

I call the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Richard Bruton. I wish him well in his new role.

I thank the Acting Chairman.

I thank Deputies Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan for tabling this motion. I absolutely believe we need an effective policy to tackle plastics and their excessive use in Ireland. The figures I have — I am sure the Deputies are more familiar with them than I am — show that our usage of plastic, at 58 g per capita, is 80% above the EU average. We have a chronic reliance on plastics and we need to start to sort that out.

Plastic represents more than a quarter of all the packaging waste generated. Our recycling level is at or about the EU average, which is acceptable at one level in that we have not fallen behind, but it is far from where we need to be. The Deputies cast aspersions on the enthusiasm to endorse the 90% target for the recycling of plastic bottles. It is important that we endorse such a target, just as we need to deliver on the target of recycling 55% of all our plastics. These are important targets that we need to meet but we also need to develop the policy instruments to make them happen. While I fully recognise the passion of the advocates who have set out a list of proposals, I believe that even Deputy Eamon Ryan will recognise that we ought to consider other possibilities and that an effective strategy needs to examine the full range and pick those strategies that are going to deliver effectively.

I very much welcome the decision of the European Union to ban ten particular items comprising single-use plastics that have been identified as causes of the chronic problem of ocean pollution. I understand from EU data that as much as 500,000 tonnes of plastic from the EU make their way into our oceans. It is important that we get to grips with meeting the targets.

I am in no way denigrating the role of the Oireachtas, as suggested, or casting aspersions on the efforts of others. I look forward to implementing a strong range of initiatives to ensure that we meet those responsibilities to which we are signing up.

Deputy Eamon Ryan, who has been in my position, will understand that, for the Government to come forward with a set of proposals, it will have to make a fair and objective evaluation, or a regulatory impact assessment. We must make sure we are picking the most effective policy instruments to deliver on our ambitions. The Deputy asked what we could consider. There is a range of actions we could consider, apart from the outright bans that the European Union is bringing forward. We cannot introduce bans without EU endorsement because of interference with trade but we have many opportunities, through our own policy instruments, to address the problems in this area. We can extend producer responsibility. Deputies Ryan and Martin are keen supporters of that.

We need incentives and levies at various points in the supply chain to determine how we can change the patterns of behaviour. We need much better labelling so people making decisions about recycling in their own homes can do so effectively and correctly. We need better packaging designs so we do not have mixed materials that make it hard to recycle. There is a wide range of policy instruments, including those Deputy Ryan listed. Included are a deposit retention scheme and the levy on disposable cups. Those are certainly measures we should consider. I am determined to do that.

I am but a week and an hour in the job, bearing in mind the time I got to the Phoenix Park last week, but I am determined to proceed with this work speedily. I will commission the work we promised to evaluate the issues speedily. I will revert to the House as quickly as I can with the outcome of the evaluation.

Deputy Eamon Ryan indicated we should just proceed to Committee Stage, where he believes we can thrash this out. I beg to differ. Committee Stage is carried out in the political arena. We do not have economic evaluations or the sorts of evaluations required on that Stage. I examined the Oireachtas committee report. It sets out the sorts of steps we need to consider. They are fairly fundamental. It is asked whether a deposit return scheme will increase recycling rates and whether the infrastructure is in place to support it. It is asked how the proposals fit with a system that has a high level of curbside collection and whether there are alternatives that might offer the same or better environmental returns. It is also asked whether infrastructure is in place to make the system work. These are pretty fundamental questions about how we can deliver on the ambitions the Deputies have set out.

I have been through Committee Stage of many Bills in my years in the House. Committee Stage is not an arena where people sit down and tease through evidence of the kind in question. It comprises largely political debates in which people set out their views and hear others and at the end of which there is a vote and a count of numbers.

We need the sort of evaluation that can result in a reduction in our reliance on plastic. Our rate of use is 80% higher than that of the rest of Europe. We must improve our recycling rates. I have seen various statistics in the evidence. The committee report suggested that we are ahead of Europe, on average. Elsewhere I have seen that we are behind Europe, on average. I am not going to try to claim we are doing well because we certainly need to do better.

We need to examine these matters and others. One of our candidates in the Taoiseach's constituency sent me today an idea involving the placing of reverse vending machines in beauty spots, whereby people could return plastics without having to have a barcode and without having to meet the other criteria involved in a deposit return scheme. Perhaps this could be added to the choices we will make.

There is no doubt we need a stronger outlet for recycled plastic. It is clear from the Commission's work in this area that if recycled plastic continues to be regarded as a second-rate material that is not admitted to the supply chains of the big branded products, we are handicapping ourselves in achieving the circular-economy approach we want to achieve.

Equally, we must get a standard for compostable cups so they can be clearly marked and separated in the waste stream and we can avoid the reliance on plastic materials. The reason we are abstaining on this and not opposing it is that we are taking time to evaluate these issues. We cannot impose a cost without having clearly understood who bears it, whether it will work and how it will work.

The Deputy said he wanted a signal and that the legislation is a signal, but he has been here long enough to know that legislation is far more than a signal. Legislation introduces obligations that must be enforced, policed and delivered. Legislative measures are not signals of how we feel but the vehicles through which we implement policy change. I must ensure I am in a position to stand over the validity of the choices we are making. All I can offer the House is the assurance, based on my record in the House, and I do not wish to count the number of years, that I take this issue intensely seriously. It is part of a much wider range of issues to which I have been given the responsibility to respond. I appreciate the passion people feel for this because it is very important. I hope I will be given the opportunity to work in this area in a constructive way with all Members, but my responsibility must always be to have the ability to stack up the evidence. As an economist I must be able to provide the evidence to support the policy decisions I make. I trained in the ESRI and came through that school. I will act when I have the evidence and I will not delay unnecessarily.

Any suggestions that we are against this agenda in some way are quite beside the point. I am determined to make an impact in this area and I have been given the privilege of taking it on. I thank the Chairman for his kind words. While the sponsors of this motion are not happy with my position, I hope I will be able to vindicate what I have done by the actions I take.

I am sharing time with a number of my colleagues. I congratulate the Minister and wish him well in his new Department. He certainly brings a wealth of experience to it, and this House and the country will benefit significantly from that. To respond to the Minister's reference to his background and history as an economist with the ESRI, when it comes to climate change we will have to look at doing things entirely differently from how they were done in the past. The old norms that applied to the way in which the economy grew and developed and the reliance we had on staple entities within that need to change dramatically. While the Minister's experience will be helpful, we will have to turn it on its head somehow in respect of dealing with the environment and climate change. I hope he will participate in that.

I thank the Green Party for bringing this motion forward. As I stated on Second Stage of the Bill, and again at the communications committee, we will work with the Green Party, the Labour Party and others to try to bring this to fruition. While we have some slight differences regarding how it might be implemented, we agree with it in principle. We introduced a similar Bill with a great deal of detail but it was knocked at the first hurdle. We had thought it through too much and, notwithstanding new politics, it failed to get through the onerous requirements of not just the money aspect of it but also the other preventive measures the Government has in its armoury.

Earlier today I met with representatives of Trócaire to discuss the need for urgency to be injected into the debate around climate change and sustainability. It is far too easy to be paralysed by the scale of the problem or to believe that it will be addressed by somebody else. The report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, has been absolutely clear that a fundamental shift in the mindset of policy makers must take place now. It is not a problem for some future set of notional politicians, but for all of us now. Fianna Fáil recognises that Ireland must take decisive action to address it. It will require a significant shift from everyone and, in parallel, there will have to be proper sustained investment in public transport and bioenergy and biowaste production. Work is ongoing at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action, but this report must become something tangible, which is accepted across the House and is acted upon. Every Member knows the issues that must be addressed. We need the political will to ensure that they are. The time that is wasted putting off the inevitable will only result in harsher measures in the future. That is in nobody's interest.

The Bill at the heart of this motion would form a part of that fundamental shift in thinking. There are issues in the Bill that will require additional work. Deputies Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin are cognisant of that and from the outset have accepted the necessity to work through them. That is accepted by all sides. They can be worked through on Committee and Remaining Stages if a money message is forthcoming as a result of tonight's motion. I listened intently to the Minister and I hope that it will be forthcoming when he has concluded his detailed analytical work and accepts the new realities we face.

At the core of the Bill is a desire to address plastic waste and to reduce the levels entering landfill. This is both timely and necessary. In Ireland an estimated 983,380 tonnes of packaging waste were generated in 2015. That is about the same weight as 19 Titanics piled on top of each other. This is unsustainable. In 1997, the Fianna Fáil-led Government set up Repak, an organisation of Irish businesses that support recycling. Since then, Ireland's recycling rates have increased dramatically, from 15% in 1998 to 66% by 2011. This was a steep change, but the results of the IPCC report show that we must go further. Recycling can only go so far and reduction must also play a role. This was part of the reason that Fianna Fáil introduced a levy on plastic bags in 2002. That policy change drastically reduced the number of plastic bags consumed in Ireland from about 328 bags per capita to 21. Indeed, McKinsey has shown how consumer goods companies can reduce overall packaging costs by 10% by making simple design changes. We must empower and encourage producers to reduce the level of plastic used to create packaging in the first place.

We must also develop and improve the circular economy. I believe that individual consumer behaviour can only go so far in reducing the volume of waste that is sent to landfill. We could have 100% compliance in recycling our recyclable waste, but this is worth little if we do not drastically cut the amount of overall waste. A major study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2015 found that using a circular economy approach could boost Europe’s resource productivity by 3% by 2030. Far more work is needed to promote the development of this vital space.

Fianna Fáil supports the creation of a waste reduction task force which would be responsible for identifying ways to incentivise waste reduction in the public and private sectors and promote the circular economy. This will also benefit the consumer, who will not be responsible for disposing of huge amounts of unneeded packaging. Those of us who have become a little more conscious of the impact of the materials we put back into our recycling system or into our black bins have come to realise that even where one makes a concerted effort to recycle material or dispose of it appropriately, there is too much packaging associated with the products we consume. Much of this is associated with marketing techniques and we must work to reduce it. We must incentivise behavioural change among both those who design the packaging and those who purchase it.

Recent documentaries such as "Blue Planet II" and "Drowning in Plastic" have exposed the deeply distressing effects of plastic on waters and oceans that thousands of miles from land. At the current rate, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean, by weight, by 2050. This problem is transnational and so are the solutions. However, Ireland can and should be at the forefront of ending this scourge.

Fianna Fáil supports this motion on preventing single-use plastic waste. I acknowledge the Green Party's positive move in bringing it forward. We must confront the challenge of single-use plastic.

While convenient, single-use cups and tableware can have a significant environmental impact. It is not just that discarded plastics are visible along our roads, there is also a cost to collecting and disposing of them. A great many people were surprised to learn that many types of coffee cups are not recyclable due to the plastic coating applied to them. More and more people are making a greater effort to switch to reusable cups. There is a willingness and a goodwill to deal with environmental issues.

Ireland has a strong record in recent years in making improvements in recycling but there is space for so much more to be done. A deposit scheme can change behaviour, as evidenced by what happened when the plastic bag levy was introduced. Ireland was the first country to introduce this type of levy and now reusable bags have become the norm.

The Bill to which this motion is related is lighter on detail regarding how the policy proposal should work and may need further consideration in order to make it more workable. However, what is proposed is doable. We should be moving towards that. When people return their plastics, instead of getting money back they could, for example, obtain credit on their Leap cards. In that way, we could promote public transport also.

The recent IPCC report is very stark. Greater urgency is needed in taking on the challenges of climate change. I have no doubt that there is a willingness on the part of the public to take on these challenges.

Molaim an rún seo. Teastaíonn uainn úsáid na gcupán plaisteacha a laghdú ar mhaithe leis an timpeallacht. Tá roinnt feabhsúchán gur féidir iad a dhéanamh ar an mBille ach is féidir é sin a dhéanamh toisc go mbraithim go bhfuil an dea-thoil ann i measc an phobail chun dul i ngleic leis an bhfadhb seo. Molaim an rún.

Fianna Fáil wholeheartedly supports the principle behind this motion. In supporting the Bill, we will work constructively with our colleagues to improve and build upon what is the in the interests of creating a different Ireland which we can pass on with pride to the next generation.

I was struck by the first line of the motion, which acknowledges the gravity of the crisis for wildlife, rivers, lakes and oceans caused by the quantities of plastics that are finding their way into the environment. Our oceans and the wildlife within them are suffering and they need protection from the devastation caused by throwaway plastic items. It was devastating to hear Annalise Murphy, the Olympic sailor, say that a plastic bag had cost her at the Rio Olympic Games. While competing, a plastic bag became stuck on the rudder of her boat and it cost Ms Murphy quite a few places in the race.

At the current rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the seas and oceans by 2050. This is a very worrying statistic. The next generation represents a way forward. There is no doubt that the Green-Schools initiative is driving environmental management and education programmes. Promoting long-term whole-school action for the environment, Green-Schools is a student-led programme with involvement from the wider community. The programme is operated and co-ordinated by the environment and education unit of An Taisce. The work of students, in collaboration with teachers, parents, councils and local authorities, is second to none. Children learn the principles of reusing, reducing and recycling. They also learn to care for the environment from a very early age. These children can teach us a thing or two. The habits they learn will stay with them for a lifetime.

I sometimes believe that this country is literally drowning in plastic. Everywhere one looks, one sees plastic in the form of packaging, disposable cutlery, coffee cups and water bottles. This is a local, national and global crisis. Any analysis of roadside waste in my constituency in Kildare or in any other part of Ireland would show a very high proportion of disposable coffee cups and single-use plastic water bottles. Apart from the very unsightly waste on our roads and streets, and at some of the country's more scenic spots, the cleaning up by local authorities and local community groups gives rise to a considerable cost in terms of resources. There is also the huge threat to marine life and there is an unknown risk and impact on people's health. Research has shown that some plastic items can take 400 years to break down, which is shocking. It is estimated that 2% to 5% of all plastics produced end up in the oceans causing significant problems.

Much needs to be done and the State definitely needs to lead the way. One measure recommended recently by the Joint Committee on Education and Skills is the provision of free drinking water in schools. We made that recommendation to try to bring students away from fizzy, carbonated drinks. This would also have an impact because children would not need plastic bottles. This one small measure could make a huge difference and minimise the need to use plastic bottles.

I commend my colleagues in the Labour Party and the Green Party on bringing forward the Bill to make illegal by 2020 the sale or free distribution of single-use tableware that cannot be composted. This is to be welcomed. The motion also seeks the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme. There are some issues that my party would need to address but we will do so on Committee Stage. I will be commending the Bill to the House.

There are two aims in the context of what is proposed. First, to make illegal by 2020 the sale or free distribution of single-use tableware that cannot be composted at a domestic composting facility and, second, the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme whereby people would pay a small deposit fee when purchasing beverages that would be reimbursed upon return of the empty can or bottle to a suitable facility. The estimated cost in this regard would be €200 million. Repak has expressed concern regarding how this scheme might affect its nationwide recycling infrastructure, which has proved effective in raising Ireland's recycling rate from a very low base to among the highest in Europe.

On Committee Stage, Fianna Fáil will work to address these concerns. Although convenient, single-use tableware can present a major issue for Ireland's environment. In one area of County Kerry, 30% of roadside waste is made up of disposable coffee cups. The percentage for plastic bottles is not much lower. This creates unsightly waste at some of Ireland's most scenic and most visited roads and waterways. Cleaning up such waste costs local councils and community groups a considerable amount in terms of resources. In the United Kingdom, up to 3 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year. Currently, the vast majority of these cups cannot be recycled because they are coated with plastic. Certain producers and retailers are, however, leading the way in the area of recycled and compostable products.

Fianna Fáil wholeheartedly supports the principle behind the Bill to which the motion relates. We recognise that recycling can only go so far and that it needs to be complemented by measures to simply cut down on the amount of waste we produce on a daily basis. This was part of the reason that Fianna Fáil introduced a levy on plastic bags in 2002; a policy change which drastically reduced the number of plastic bags used in Ireland from approximately 328 per capita to 21. We need to identify and support initiatives that reduce both unnecessary packaging and waste.

Ireland is the top producer of plastic waste in Europe. We generate an average of 61 kg per person each year, almost double the rate for the UK. We produce the equivalent of nearly 2,000 water bottles and 5,550 disposable coffee cups per person annually. Some 30% of the EU's plastic is recycled but the equivalent figure in Ireland is 34%. Incineration accounts for 39% and landfill for 31%. More than 60% of plastic waste still comes from packaging, but only 40% of this is recycled. Ireland generated 282,148 tonnes of plastic packaging waste in 2015. China accepted 7 million tonnes of the world's plastic scrap in 2016, which was more than half of all the waste plastic exported globally that year. That market is now closed. These are some statistics I took from newspaper articles and from information provided by environmental groups that have been collecting such information for a long time.

Plastic waste represents a major challenge for the public, the Government and legislators. It must be tackled. If it was not for our Tidy Towns initiative and the people and community groups involved, the amount of plastic lying around towns and villages in rural areas would be ten times worse.

In supporting the Waste Reduction Bill, Fianna Fáil will continue to work to make this happen and to do the right thing. We introduced the plastic bag levy and we introduced Repak. We are prepared to do things to make the environment better. I assure the Minister, as a rural Deputy, that if I was to show him the amount of emails I have gotten from my constituents he would not believe it. It is an issue the Irish public wants tackled. We have a duty and responsibility to answer that call and to respond.

I compliment Deputies Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan on bringing forward this motion tonight. I compliment them on their opening remarks. They were very passionately spoken and heartfelt. I also congratulate the Minister on his new role in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

I am happy to support this motion because I sincerely believe that we are not doing enough to protect our environment. It is critical that policy proposals be fair, workable and effective and that we have buy-in from the key stakeholders if we are to succeed in enacting the sea change in attitudes and behaviours that needs to be harnessed to gain respect for our environment and our landscape. Illegal dumping has become the scourge of rural Ireland. It continues to be a blight on our beautiful drumlins across Cavan and Monaghan. Unfortunately, we see it every day on our roadsides. It is waste made up of disposable cups, plastic bottles, and other forms of waste that make up the most appalling collage of plastics and which degrade our most scenic roadways, walkways and waterways. Cleaning it up comes at a huge cost to our local authorities in terms of human resources and expense, not to mention the futile exercise of following the perpetrators through the courts only to achieve a fine that in most cases will never be paid.

It is not an exaggeration when I tell the Minister that a significant number of hours in my constituency office are taken up by very concerned and conscientious constituents who are appalled by the deplorable behaviour of others who are abusing our scenic sites in a very intentional way, dumping all sorts of illegal plastics, mattresses, furniture and general household waste which could easily be disposed of at recycling centres. These culprits know all too well that illegal dumping cannot be tolerated in scenic areas in particular and that councils have to act quickly and remove it. At our own Castle Lake in Bailieborough in County Cavan, which is real beauty spot in the county, we were scourged over the summer months by campers leaving their rubbish and waste plastic bottles behind them. We had numerous incidents in beautiful spots like Bunnoe and in quiet countryside areas where dumping continues to be a scourge for the residents and local people in the area.

In protecting our environment we need to bring forward practical solutions that incentivise waste reduction, cut down on unnecessary packaging and reduce waste. We need to start protecting and appreciating our beautiful landscape and environment. We need to act.

I welcome this opportunity to address this motion. I congratulate the Minister on his new appointment. I look forward to working with him and challenging him on issues such as this. He is the fourth Minister with whom I have dealt on this issue in the last eight years-----

The Deputy is very hard on Ministers.

-----because in the last Dáil I had the brief of local government and environment. We had Phil Hogan, Deputy Alan Kelly and Deputy Denis Naughten. If the Minister does anything, he needs to make a start with this. The game is up in terms of plastic. I congratulate the Green Party for bringing this issue forward again. The consequences are absolutely horrific. It is constant and it is doing huge damage to our environment. We need to face it now, not later. Plastic was the so-called great material of the 20th century but it has turned out to be the scourge of the 21st century. If we do not act and put new policies in place we are going to face a problem which we will not be able to overcome.

We in Sinn Féin support practical action on plastic pollution, and indeed on other pollution. We are not just highlighting the problem or calling it out. We put forward a comprehensive Bill last year which outlined the establishment of a deposit return scheme as called for in this motion. The Sinn Féin Bill had other provisions on illegal dumping, household bin collection and so on. While I recognise that the Green Party Bill is limited in detail, we are prepared to work with the party on Committee Stage in order to improve it. There is very little in the Bill in terms of how the deposit scheme would work. We had some more information tonight in the motion. The proposal is good and we need to move ahead with it.

The policy of reduce, reuse and recycle is needed now more than ever. The Minister talked a lot about recycling but recycling is only the second least worst option. We need to reduce at source, or eliminate at source where we can. We need to reuse. Recycling is way down the chain. It is good if it is the only option open to us, but we need to take other actions first such as eliminating waste at source or reusing.

We have to ask how we are dealing with the waste. Of course the Chinese market is now closed. We can no longer dump it on the Chinese. Other states like Thailand and Vietnam are also moving in the same direction. What do we do? Do we find another country to which to ship our waste or do we deal with it ourselves? We see that essential change is needed in how we treat the environment. There is a vital need to combat climate change at all levels. We in Sinn Féin put forward Bills on waste reduction and microgeneration, an extensive paper on biogas, and a policy document, Powering Ireland 2030, all in the last number of months. We see this motion tonight as essential and as another part of working with other parties in the Dáil to get that necessary action.

We in Sinn Féin do not see this as creating a big burden. Phil Hogan and some of the other Ministers looked at it in that way. They said there was a recession and that we had to deal with that first. This should be seen as a way of getting out of recession. We will actually be dragged into a recession if we do not try to adopt and build new, green, sustainable industries and get rid of the old industries. That is what we need to do. We need to build our image as a green island. We should be a leader. We should not be behind with everything as we are at the moment in respect of climate change, the production of plastic and a whole lot of other things.

The figures in terms of plastic pollution are immense and horrific and cannot be overstated. They have been outlined here tonight in great detail. It is estimated that 2% to 5% of all plastic produced finishes up in the seas and oceans. A study released by the National University of Ireland, Galway, last year found that 70% of deep sea fish sampled in the north Atlantic had ingested plastic. Some 80% of the prawn population in Dublin Bay has ingested plastic. It is a nice thought, is it not? The pollution problem also affects our rivers and beaches. Without action there may be more plastic than fish by weight by 2020. A report by the Environment Agency Austria today shows that microplastics are being found in the human digestive system and suggests that this could affect the immune response and aid transmission of toxic chemicals. That is a terrible thing to state. In August a report conducted by An Taisce highlighted the shocking fact that only 8% of Irish water was judged as clean. Ireland is the top producer of plastic in the European Union. I mentioned our record in terms of greenhouse gas emissions earlier. We are laggards rather than being out in front. It is estimated that 983,280 tonnes of packaging waste was generated in 2015, that is almost 1 million tonnes. Some 528,000 plastic cups are disposed of every day, many of them on roadways around the State. Some 32% of plastics escape collection systems. Where is all that going?

Once this plastic is in the environment it is difficult to extract it. Earlier speakers mentioned Tidy Towns committees, community groups and people in rural areas picking up plastic. If one walks along any country road, particularly after Christmas when the vegetation starts dying back, one will see the full horrors of what is being dumped on the roadsides. The problem is the length of time it will take to decompose. The other real problem is that 90% of plastics are derived from fossil fuels, which means that the scourge of plastic has a double negative effect in terms of carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions because it is produced from oil and fossil fuels and there are also emissions from the production process. It has a double whammy.

We have to remember that a deposit return scheme will not solve all of these problems in itself. Neither will a ban on single-use plastics. However, it is a significant part of the bigger picture. The bigger pieces of the jigsaw need to be put together. The many elements need to be put together so that they can work together to create the change and revolution that is necessary. Banning single-use plastics and establishing deposit return schemes deal with the end of the chain.

This is the key. We have to stop the conveyer belt of machines that are churning out plastic and feeding it into society. There are millions of tonnes of it and we need to concentrate on that. We need to put a halt on the manufacturers and stop the unnecessary waste at source. The best way of dealing with a problem - I think the Minister will agree - is to not create it in the first place. The easiest way to solve a problem is to not have the problem. While I am not naive enough to think we can do it overnight, we have to change. The Government is delaying. I agree with the Green Party on this. It is very frustrating. Nearly eight years ago, I spoke to the former Minister, Commissioner Phil Hogan, about this and here we are all this time later. We cannot put it off any longer.

It is not a huge technological problem. Other countries have these schemes up and running. We will go at our own expense to the other countries and talk to the people. I am willing to do it as part of a delegation from the Dáil. We will go and look at how it works in other countries. It cannot be rocket science. We all see it working in other countries when we go on holidays. Let us do that and put a scheme in place. We cannot keep denying that we have this issue and claiming it is terribly complicated to deal with. I do not want to oversimplify the matter but the scheme I put forward would not impose a cost on the Exchequer as it would be self-financing. This one can be as well. There is no reason we cannot do this. We have to try to move on this very soon. Government policies need to change, householders have a role to play and I have a role to play as a citizen. I will not use the word "consumer", which I have banned from my house. I wish to God we could ban it here as well because we need to start talking about people and citizens. We are not consumers at the end of a conveyor belt. We need to impose an obligation on the manufacturer as a starting point. Each of us must play a role. We can start by handing back packaging and taking out all the rubbish that comes in the newspapers and leaving it in the shops. We do not need to bring it home with us. We must reduce waste at source and eliminate it.

I welcome that the motion refers to medical devices because an exception has to be made for syringes and other equipment that is needed. Many people need single use plastic for medical reasons on a daily basis. We need to provide for that and protect it. The switch from plastics in society is necessary and urgent. That is the message I want to give to the Minister who is new in his position. This material was not as widespread 50 years ago. In fact there was hardly any of it. We can look ahead by taking a quick look back at how we managed without it. We can plan for change. The Government needs to think and act differently and put policies and practices in place to end plastic and create alternatives. The good news is that the Minister has the Opposition with him, as he is hearing tonight. This is not something on which he has to come in and battle with us on. The game is up for plastic and it will also be up for a Government and political parties that do not take it into consideration.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I support the Private Members' motion and thank the Green Party for putting it before us. It speaks to common sense. The scourge of single use plastics is a blight on our environment and landscape. There is a clear demand now among the people, as articulated by the majority of Members in the House through the motion, and a clear view that we must now move towards the elimination of single use plastics on a practical basis. If we are to give any serious consideration to the IPCC report, which we are all very familiar with at this juncture, failure to take radical and drastic action will have serious consequences for humanity. I am not given to verbosity but when one looks at the stark figures contained in the IPCC report, there is very little time in global historical terms for us to do something radical to potentially turn things around to a more positive vein.

This is a practical motion to which Members have assented. We should not be fooled by the Government's intention to abstain on it or read that as Government assent. It is, as has been said by Deputy Eamon Ryan, a delaying tactic. The money message is a mechanism being used as a very blunt instrument to stunt the progress of Opposition Bills and motions in the House. We demand action on this issue now. If the majority of Members say we want to support the motion, that should, in a democratic process, give rise to action by the Government out of, at a minimum, sheer respect for the democratic process. We need radical action. We are all familiar with the idea of deposit refund schemes and all of us have seen them in operation. They work in many western European countries and are based on pragmatism and common sense. Why can we not move in a direction which seeks to speak to the issue of single use plastics? We all realise as consumers and citizens that if we do not tackle this issue, the scourge of single use plastics, particularly around our coastlines, will get worse. I speak as a sea kayaker. It is something I do as a pastime. There is nothing more beneficial than to be out on the ocean in a boat on one's own steam. It is depressing to see the amount of plastic washed up on beaches with every tide or the plastic that floats at sea when one gets out far enough. As an island nation with a proud maritime history, we need to do something to tackle it and to take leadership on this issue, if not for this generation, for future generations.

I look forward to the intervention of some of the members of the IPCC who will be before the House to address the Joint Committee on Climate Action because it will bring home to us just how stark this problem is. We need to be jolted into action. Sometimes in this House we are in a bit of a bubble and sometimes people outside the House know better what needs to happen in terms of actions. They are demand action on this issue, which is not an insurmountable one. It can be tackled with some co-operation and collaboration.

The motion speaks to a pragmatic approach where we move towards an eventual phasing out of single use plastics. In the meantime, it proposes, as an intervention, the introduction of a deposit refund scheme, as is commonplace in other countries. We also need to consider investing in the establishment of glass bottling plants. Perhaps this has been spoken about already and it has certainly been spoken about previously. The idea that we become producers of glass bottles and further incentivise the constant reuse of materials is common sense. We did this before plastics became omnipresent and there is a demand for it.

There are many worthwhile causes throughout Ireland now. Members of Clean Coasts Ballynamona in east Cork are out every weekend cleaning up beaches and doing a mighty job. What we see in that is people power. It is people and communities coming together across the generations, not radical action. They want to be able to walk on pristine beaches again. They want to ensure that water quality is of a certain standard. It brings me to the issue of banning microplastics, on which I have a Bill that has reached Committee Stage. The relevant committee has analysed the microplastics Bill.

I am waiting for a money message on it too. We cannot have more stalling tactics on these issues. I acknowledge the fact that the Green Party first brought through the microplastics Bill, on which we took up the cudgel, and that we are waiting for the Government to publish its Bill. I know that there is a Bill in gestation, which I welcome, but we want to see it published in order that we can all examine it. If we do not ban microplastics, I do not need to tell Deputies or anybody watching what the consequences of the constant presence of microplastics in marine life are, or what the consequences ultimately will be for humans. One does not have to go too far to witness the insidious damage microplastics and other plastics cause to flora and fauna such as birds.

We have an opportunity to pass a motion in this House, but it will be meaningless as a motion if it is not followed by action. There is a willingness on the part of this House, and every Deputy, to try to bring about radical change in our attitudes to plastics and to try to legislate for changes in human behaviour in a practical way.

Everything about the Government's response to this issue is utterly cynical and it must be called out on it. Its approach to the question of procedure makes a joke of the supposed democracy of this Parliament, while its approach to the substance of the issue makes a joke of any commitment to tackle plastic pollution. It is a good motion, but I do not mean any offence to its movers when I say its most substantial elements simply call on the Government to recognise the support the Dáil has given to a Bill which was passed on Second Stage last yea, and approve the issuing of a money message to stop using a technical measure to prevent a Bill passed by Parliament from proceeding, being debated on Committee Stage and eventually passed into law, as is the democratic will of Parliament.

That Green Party Deputies are forced to use Private Members' time to bring forward a motion to state a Bill that has been passed on Second Stage should stop being blocked by the Government is utterly outrageous. The Government is cynical not just on this issue but also on others such as the sexual education Bill, where it allows Bills to pass on Second Stage, or is forced to recognise a Bill that has been passed on Second Stage and then simply stops it because it is no longer in the limelight. It is an utter disgrace. The Government's response to this debate adds insult to injury. After this debate, the Government will abstain; we will pass the motion without a vote and there will be two votes in the Parliament in favour of the Bill being brought into law, yet it still will not be brought into law because the Government will not pass the money message. It will still go to the European State and state it is in favour of taking action, etc., while it watches the clock wind down in this parliamentary term, knowing that all of the Bills will then die with nothing having been done about them. It is a disgrace. It is good that the Green Party has brought forward the motion to call out the Government on it, of which we need to do more because it gets away with it.

On the substance of the Bill, the unwillingness to implement the legislation underlines the unwillingness to do anything about the fundamental issue, apart from the rhetoric on climate change, as we saw in the Budget Statement a couple of weeks ago. The point has been made about how urgent the problem is and every minute the equivalent of a bin truck full of plastic is dumped into the oceans, with the consequence that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. It interacts with nature in the oceans and causes starvation in marine animals and birds as it cannot be broken down. It fills their stomachs, preventing them from ingesting food. It becomes entangled in coral reefs, blocking light and oxygen and releasing harmful toxins, which allows disease to set in and kill the coral. Of course, it ends up in humans. A study conducted in Ghent University last year found that each European was possibly ingesting up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year.

The approach of the Government, or at least Fine Gael, was summed up in its green week a couple of months ago, which was like something from 20 years ago in its idea that tackling the issue was all about individual responsibilty. The use of plastic proves the point that it is not only about good individual choices. People do not make choices in a vacuum; rather, they make them in a capitalist society where many of the choices such as on the use of plastic packaging and so on have already been made for them, driven by the need to make a profit, logistics, marketing and so forth. We need regulations to ban the use of single-use plastics, non-recyclable plastics and, most fundamentally, oil-based plastics. I would go further, however, and say we need to tackle those behind the manufacture of plastics, that is, the same companies which are behind the causes of climate change, namely, the big oil companies. Fundamentally, we cannot control what we do not own; therefore, the oil companies need to be taken into public ownership. We need to use that control to end the use of oil-based plastics and completely phase out the use of fossil fuels.

The Minister will not be surprised to hear that I am disappointed with his first outing as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment in opposing the Bill and not issuing a money message to prevent its progress. Deputy Paul Murphy has raised most of the important points much better than I could, but the last point he made is often overlooked in this argument, namely, that conventional plastic is made from fossil fuels and that the plastic industry is controlled by the fossil fuel industry. While researching this issue, I was interested to learn that ethylene which is used to make most plastic products nowadays was a by-product in the extraction of shale gas, which occurs widely across North America, when ethane and propane are brought together in a cracking facility. As the use of shale gas is the most cost-effective way of producing ethylene in the United States, it and its oil industry are pushing up the use of gas to a level that is quite frightening. We expect the level of production of plastic to increase in the next 20 years by four times. By 2050 there will have been a quadrupling of the production of plastic on the planet.

Recyclers, individuals and campaigners who care about the environment such as the schoolchildren whom Deputy Catherine Martin mentioned are not the polluters. The polluters are the producers and it is they on whom we must keep an eye. Unfortunately, however, the Government's display is to lie down in front of them and state there might be unforeseen consequences for the industry. There is no doubt that the industry lobbies the likes of the Minister to ensure it will keeps its lucrative position through its proposals to continue offshore drilling and gas. A Bill will be brought before a committee in the next while, but by abstaining on these proposals the Government is ignoring the fact that the world needs to move to renewables. Ignoring this issue means that the plastic industry will refuse to recognise the social and political demand on the citizens of this planet to do something about it. It behoves the Government to take the lead on this matter.

The previous Minister, Deputy Denis Naughten, said the Bill might have unforeseen consequences for the waste management industry through losing profits and possibly having to pass on the cost to people who pay their bin charges. We must reject this. This is the industry of Tony Soprano, in which there is cut-throat competition, that makes vast profits and keeps companies offshore. We do not even get to see its profits, but it pushes up costs all the time, which is why it is important that we begin to make the argument that waste management must be taken back under public control in order that it will be accountable. The systems used in Scandinavian countries and even in cities across America must be implemented by a publicly accountable body, not by a waste management industry about which the Minister seems to be so concerned that he will not issue a money message.

I dtús báire ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an gComhaontas Glas as ucht an rún seo a chur os comhair na Dála. Faraor, bhí ar an bpáirtí é a dhéanamh in ainneoin go raibh agus go bhfuil reachtaíocht i gceist. Chuir sé an Bille sin os comhair na Dála breis agus bliain ó shin. Is mór an náire é sin. Guím gach rath ar an Aire ina ról nua. Tá súil agam go mbeidh de mhisneach aige rud a dhéanamh agus dul i ngleic leis an dúshlán atá i gceist ó thaobh athrú aeráide de. Táim beagáinín amhrasach tar éis an méid a dúirt sé anocht, go háirithe nuair a dúirt sé nach bhfuil sé chun tacaíocht a thabhairt don rún seo.

I wish the Minister the best in his new role. I really hope that he hits the ground running because we have no choice, but I am a little doubtful after listening to him tonight. He spoke about waiting until he had stacked up the evidence, and how he cannot impose costs and that he will abstain but there is no abstention in climate change; there is no more waiting to stack up the evidence, the evidence is overwhelming. As repeatedly pointed out in this Chamber, the day before the budget we learned of the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, that makes clear that there is no safe level of global warming. It highlights the urgency that pertains to climate change, that climate change is a problem for the here and now and that we, as policy makers, must do something and have the conviction to do something.

All the figures have been quoted on plastic itself. We know there is an area three times the size of France, that 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world's oceans, that plastic pollution damages our marine environments and the cost is like Monopoly money, €8 billion. We know from the World Economic Forum that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Costs differ depending on to whom one listens. The Climate Action Network Europe has told us that non-compliance costs €500 million. The senior fellow at the Institute for International and European Affairs, IIEA has told us that the costs will be €3.7 billion, or €5.5 billion by 2030. I could go on, but the most fundamental statistic is that it is the poorer people who will suffer the most, the same people who contribute least to climate change. Nevertheless, we are sitting here with another Minister and a budget that utterly failed to recognise the urgency of the action needed in climate change. Our legislation, our mitigation plan and action did not come from nowhere; we were forced into all that legislation as we will be forced into passing the Bill being brought forward by the Green Party. That is because we have to do it, we have absolutely no choice. We signed up under the Paris Agreement along with 195 other countries. Every single monitoring body tells us we are failing in our commitment. The Taoiseach spoke of the challenge of Brexit but I would say that pales into insignificance compared with the challenge posed by climate change. If this Government does not recognise that we will be in serious trouble.

The clock is ticking so I will finish, but I hope the Minister has the sense to realise that delay is no longer acceptable.

I would not say that I am disappointed with the Minister's response, I am angry. I expected more from him. Climate and the environment is one of the defining issues facing human kind over the coming period. As the IPCC noted, it is something that Governments will have to be responsible for. I support the Green Party waste management Bill as it is a no-brainer, it has to be done.

The documentary "Drowning in Plastic" exposes the global consequences of plastic, focusing on marine plastic and its movement into the food chain. In it, the presenter, Liz Bonnin asks if we can turn the tide before it is too late. She observes the devastating effects of plastic debris in different parts of the world, from the USA to Indonesia. She reminds us that every minute consumers buy 1 million plastic bottles, 1 million disposable cups and 2 million plastic bags, because we do not have choices as individuals, that is what is on offer to us. Every minute, plastic finds its way into our rivers and seas which results in over 8 million tonnes going into the marine environment. That is the evidence which is stacked up, the evidence of what we as humans will face in time. Ms Bonnin looks at a number of species during the programme. I do not know if the Minister has seen it. It opens with the flesh-footed shearwater birds. We see birds vomiting whole pieces of plastic, including bottle caps, after the parents have mistaken debris for food and fed it to their chicks. This causes malfunctions in the reproductive system and their ability to fly and ultimately leads to malnourishment and death. That is equal to 10 kg of plastic in a human's stomach. That is what some animals face today. With other sea life also mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish and microplastics for fish eggs or algae, plastic is becoming a deadly part of the food chain. Ms Bonnin also notes the recent scientific discovery that plastic is the perfect carrier for deadly bacteria that causes cholera in humans. Meanwhile 300,000 marine mammals and more than 400,000 sea birds are killed annually after being entangled by fishing nets, something that has brought the North-Atlantic right whale particularly close to extinction, while for fishermen, depending on low-cost methods in order to make a living, plastic often seems like their only option for durable fishing rope.

However, even if people want to change their attitude towards waste, it is not always easy. An estimated 2 million people worldwide do not have access to proper waste management and can only throw their rubbish on their doorstep or in nearby waterways. Who is to blame for this? Is it the local authorities who do not provide facilities for waste disposals or the big corporations which sell heavily packaged small quantities of modern essentials such as shampoo and toothpaste to countries which are unable to dispose of them sustainably? I blame big corporations.

I agree that individuals cannot solve this issue but I support the part of the Bill that provides for a deposit return scheme. That is something we can do. However, the key is to ban single-use non-recyclable, non-compostable plastic tableware and so on. Industry and corporations must be challenged to introduce alternatives to plastic. Are we protecting Repak? Coca Cola pay into Repak, and having paid their blood money continue to bring out cans and material that cannot be recycled. I call on the Government to introduce the money message and acknowledge Friends of the Earth, Voice Ireland and Uplift which has run a campaign and secured a large number of signatures to petition this Government.

I call on the Rural Independent Group, where Deputy Michael Healy-Rae is sharing with his colleagues.

I appreciate getting an opportunity to speak on this debate. I have congratulated the Minister and the Minister of State privately but I want to do so publicly here and wish them every good luck in their new roles.

The issue of plastics is a great concern to all of us. We want to protect the environment, the human inhabitants of the world as well as our wildlife. We have seen the horrors of the programme that showed what is happening in our seas. It is horrific beyond belief.

As a small retailer for a good number of years, I have seen first hand the benefits of the small charge that was introduced for plastic bags. I acknowledge that it was a culture changing event. However, again as a small shopkeeper, I see first hand the amount of unnecessary plastics used in the packaging and delivery of the goods that we consume. There is no need for half of the plastic, indeed there is probably not a need for even 15% or 20% of the plastic that we use daily. We need something like the culture changing event that took place when people had to pay for plastic bags. They stopped using them overnight. Now it is an unusual thing for a person to say that they want a plastic bag, but it is usually for a genuine reason, such as there being lots of small things falling around, and they need the convenience. However, I believe we can go further than we went on that occasion and that each one of us can do an awful lot more.

I compliment our farmers who are so conscientious with silage plastic, where it is bundled up and recycled, and put to very good uses such as rubber mats for underneath animals. Our farming community is doing this already and we as ordinary consumers can do it much more and to greater effect.

Walking the beaches of west Clare, it is absolutely amazing to see the amount of plastic washed up on them. This takes a huge toll on our marine environment, our fish stocks and on human health. It is thought that we are in possession of a single use plastic item for at most 15 minutes, but it takes decades or centuries for that plastic item to degrade, be it plastic cups, straws, plastic wrapping on containers or vegetables and other food stuffs, and also the wrapping on consumer items such as children's toys. The town of Kilkee in west Clare engaged in a very interesting initiative this summer called "Keep Kilkee Plastic Free". Businesses in Kilkee committed to avoiding the use of plastic and the sale of plastic to visitors and residents. They banned the use of plastic coffee cups and straws. Financial incentives were given to businesses to participate, and waste segregation bins were installed in Kilkee by Clare County Council. It is estimated that 10,000 litres of recyclable material was diverted away from landfill. Such voluntary action is very effective.

Plastic pollution is a visible sign that we are living in an unsustainable fashion. The iconic scientist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, predicted that we will destroy our environment in years to come and that it will be impossible for human life to continue on earth. We are talking about the future generations, our children and our grandchildren and generations beyond them. Supermarkets are waking up to the issue and are beginning to ban plastic usage. They are taking plastic wrappings off vegetables and banning plastic cutlery on shelves. Apart from voluntary avoidance of single plastic use, and apart from the new industries that are now being set up to introduce compostable alternatives, political will is required to introduce legislation or to enact legislation that is already in place which will ban and underpin the use of single use plastics.

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Bruton, and the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, on their new roles. I wish them well, and every good luck. I am glad to have the opportunity to talk on this very important topic. We all know that there is too much plastic around. It is a demon, and it is hard to control. As a publican I can see that plastic is everywhere, and it is hard to understand why we need so much of it. A few years ago every bottle in the pub was made of glass. They were all refundable, and if one gave out a few bottles for a station or something similar one made sure to get them back again. The bottles where noted wherever they went so that they could be retrieved. We have moved away from that. There was nothing wrong with that system. The bottles were brought back, washed and reused. Today bottles are either made of plastic or glass, but they are non-returnable. Coke bottles do not go back. Lucozade bottles are not wanted back by the companies. Many of the cider bottles are made from plastic. Six-packs are wrapped up in plastic and the bottles are non-returnable, as are sparkling water bottles and Smirnoff Ice bottles. People have no interest in bringing them back and publicans do not want to go out and get their bottles back.

We have a great facility now where one can go into any shop and get a cup of tea no matter where it is. In most shops in most rural villages one can get a cup of tea, but we are inclined to bring away a plastic cup. People should be encouraged and incentivised to bring their own cups and reuse it all the time.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Private Members' motion. I confirm that I support it, and commend the Green Party for bringing the Bill forward again. The Bill was initiated almost two years ago, and it was passed here at Second Stage on 20 June 2017. It was then discussed on Committee Stage. The Bill had strong, significant, indeed overwhelming support here in the Chamber, and indeed on Committee Stage. However, the Bill has been effectively blocked by the Government, particularly by the former Minister, Deputy Naughten, and his refusal to issue a money message. It appears from the speech made by the new Minister, Deputy Bruton, this evening, that that stance will continue. In my view it is absolutely shameful. It is anti-democratic. The Bill has been discussed by the House, supported by the House, and has been supported on Committee Stage. There is no doubt that any attempt to block the Bill is anti-democratic and should be reversed. I appeal to the Minister, on the basis of democracy, to allow this Bill to continue.

This is not the only issue on which the Government takes this very cynical approach. It allows a motion or a Bill to progress through the House or to Second Stage and then cynically stops it in its tracks. It has happened recently on the issue of the closure of post offices. In October 2016 this Chamber was unanimous in opposing the closure of post offices. This included members of the Government parties at the time. However, in the last number of months An Post has adopted a policy of closing numerous post offices. Some have closed already and further post offices will close. It also happened, and continues to happen, on the issue of housing. The Chamber has supported calls to declare an emergency in the area of housing, but the Government is cynically stopping that provision from being put in place. I appeal to the Minister to allow democracy to take its course and to allow this Bill to go forward.

There are two particular elements in the Bill. One is the ban on disposable, non-compostable tablewear. The sale or free distribution of disposable plastic cups, glasses, plates and other tableware would be banned from 1 January 2020. The other element is the deposit and return schemes. The Bill states that by 1 July 2019 the Minister shall make regulations in exercise of his powers to provide for a deposit and return scheme for containers in which beverages are sold. Those two elements are absolutely necessary; they are eminently common-sense measures. They may make a really positive impact on tackling the question of plastic waste. This Bill, as other speakers have said, is supported not just by Tidy Towns committees and Friends of the Earth, which has gathered approximately 15,000 signatures, but I believe there is a huge majority in the country and among the public for supporting the measures set out in this Bill.

The measures contained in it have been tried and tested successfully in many other countries. Plastic is devastating our seas, our animals and the environment. It is in the human food chain and is effectively polluting our bodies. Significant volumes of packaging are being produced. Anyone who goes to a supermarket, for example, will find they are inundated with plastic packaging. Not too long ago, there was not much of this packaging. We did not need it then and we do not need it now. Much of this plastic packaging, coming from fossil fuels such as oil and gas, is not recyclable.

The measures outlined in this motion are necessary and sensible, having been tried and tested in other jurisdictions. They have the support of the majority of the population. The sooner the Government agrees to allow these measures to take their course, the better.

Waste collection services have been privatised in recent years. This has created a disastrous situation throughout the country. This privatisation should be reversed with local authorities allowed to recommence waste collection as a public service.

I support the motion and hope the Minister and Government will change their minds, act in a democratic fashion and allow the measures contained in this motion take their course.

Plastic waste is an emotive topic and rightly provokes passionate debate. People are concerned about the proliferation of plastics in our lives and the impacts, known and unknown, of plastic leaking into our water and food systems. Plastic, however, is not bad in its own right. The development of plastic has facilitated enormous advances across engineering, human health and energy efficiency. Lightweight and durable, plastic even plays a role in reducing the carbon footprint of transport and food production. However, we need to be selective about how we use plastic. We need to ensure we use it only where necessary, reuse it where possible and recycle for further and repeated use.

Tackling the negative impacts of plastic on our environment is a national and global challenge. The Government’s priority is to work collectively and internationally to protect our environment but to ensure we also maximise our potential for meaningful and sustainable improvement at home. As a small country in a global economy, our membership of the EU gives us a seat at a table where internationally significant policies are developed. In recent years, the EU has rolled out innovative new plans and strategies to help transition our economies from a linear model of take-make-dispose to a circular model where nothing goes to waste and resources are properly valued through efficient use and reuse. The EU’s circular economy action plan recognises the central part that plastics play in a modern economy. The plastics strategy delivered this year was a key deliverable of the action plan and sets out how the European economy can address the challenge of plastic throughout the value chain across its full life cycle.

Central to the strategy is a commitment to work towards ensuring all plastic packaging is recyclable by 2030. Many of the measures recommended in the plastic strategy are well embedded into Irish resource management. These measures include the existing extended producer responsibility schemes run by Repak and the Irish Farm Films Producers Group, the landfill levy, the plastic bag levy, as well as robust enforcement around illegal dumping and landfilling.

More needs to be done, however. The new recycling targets agreed earlier this year as part of the EU’s circular economy legislative package demand we raise our game once again. Ireland has come a long way in recent years to become one of Europe’s top performers in waste management. We need to build on this success in an informed and deliberate manner. Rushing to introduce a deposit and refund scheme, as proposed in the Private Members’ motion, without a considered basis for action risks jeopardising the progress made.

Business is also playing its part in this process. As Ireland’s approved compliance scheme for packaging, Repak has overseen growth in all aspects of its activity, membership numbers, tonnages recycled and recovered, as well as supporting its members in more efficient use of packaging and preventing waste. Repak recently launched a plastic packaging strategy for its members. The strategy sets out a response to the challenge of doubling the recycling of plastic packaging by 2030.

Similarly, we must support consumers in their efforts to do the right thing around plastic recycling. The national recycling list awareness campaigns and recycling ambassador programme help ensure these valuable materials are used as a resource for our communities and economy rather than being wasted. People have demonstrated a strong interest in doing the right thing and knowing how to do it. The national recycling list has put together a list of everyday household items suitable for recycling and will be accepted by every waste collection company throughout the State. Not only does this campaign help improve the quality and, therefore, the value of our recyclate stock, this campaign is also empowering people to become active participants in our recycling society.

As referred to in the Minister’s opening statement, the first legislative proposal to emerge on foot of the plastics strategy is the proposal for a directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, commonly referred to as the single use plastic, SUP, proposal. This is an ambitious and far-reaching proposal which aims to tackle the ten most prevalent single use plastic products found in Europe’s marine environment, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. The proposal provides for the banning of certain single use plastics and the setting of targets for reducing the consumption of others. It places clear obligations on producers and industry to contribute towards the costs of waste management, awareness raising and the clean-up of certain items. While it points member states towards deposit and refund schemes as a means of achieving higher collection rates of plastics, it is not prescriptive and allows member states devise solutions suitable for their national territory.

The proposed national study into how Ireland can achieve higher collection and recycling rates for plastic and aluminium drinks containers specifically has to be central in informing our next steps. Talks around the implementation of the single use plastics legislation at European level are progressing rapidly, driven in no small part by the overwhelming desire of European citizens for EU governments to take effective action now. Ultimately, industry, government and consumers alike must all work together to tackle the problem now for the sake of future generations.

In the area of marine plastic, my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, will be bringing in a Bill to prohibit the manufacturing, selling, importing or exporting of cosmetics, personal care products, detergents and scouring agents containing plastic microbeads which are liable to be washed into wastewater systems with the potential to reach our rivers, lakes and seas. This is to be welcomed.

The Government encourages a high level of political and citizen engagement in matters relating to the environment. Ultimately, it is the environment that sustains us all and we are all stakeholders in its protection.

While Deputy Ryan’s Bill is well intended and genuinely motivated, we all need to pull in the one direction. The Government intends to build on our strong waste performance record to achieve and exceed the targets set down in European legislation. Any policy changes to be introduced need to be evidence based and soundly costed. Making fundamental changes to our existing collection system may undermine the achievements made to date. The Government understands the urgency behind the improvements required and the Minister has committed to ensuring a speedy conclusion to the deliberations required.

I wish the Minister, Deputy Bruton, and the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, well. I agree that we all have to pull together to turn this country green. I was struck by the Minister's comment that he was of the old ESRI school. The ESRI school of economics will not be sufficient today. Last weekend in Helsinki, a 15 year old Swedish schoolgirl named Greta spoke very well about climate change. She said we cannot save the world by playing by the existing rules because the rules have to change. The rules of economics have to change. What we value and how we price, qualify and measure natural resources and their use in the economic system must fundamentally and radically change. The Bill will not do this but it is part of the change. In her speech, Greta said the politics needed to prevent the climate catastrophe do not exist today. I hope we can prove her wrong and I hope we can be inspired by the vision of what a 15 year old stated we need to do to show we can deliver in politics.

I have listened to the contributions. We had this debate a year and a half ago when climate was not mentioned so much. It was all about natural protection. It is right to introduce the Waste Reduction Bill because the Oireachtas climate action committee is starting to realise the scale of the change we need to make, not just in energy but also transport and land use, and how far off course we are in this country. We must also move towards a circular economy whereby we use materials less and really wisely. This is complex. It is true that sometimes one might switch from plastic to paper and the paper might have a significant carbon footprint also. We need to use less, use things cleverly and do things with this perspective in mind in changing everything. We will need a different understanding of economics.

I stand by the Bill. I heard various people state they would like to change it this way or that. I would love to have a debate on Committee Stage as to what would be changed. To be honest, I would not change it much because it is good legislation. We would change the original section we included on a ban on single use plastic cups. We accepted the legal advice that it might be difficult and that a levy would work just as well. The Minister and Department seem to agree with us on this. That is the one amendment I would make. However, I disagree with the Minister as I believe we could introduce the ban. We received much legal advice from our Oireachtas legal support and, having listened extensively to it, I believe the Bill stands up legally. In fact, it is in touch with what is going on in the European Commission. We will be out of the legal order if we do not apply these measures.

Some people have stated the Bill needs to be much more detailed and longer. I disagree. The statutory instrument that introduced a ban on smoking in public spaces is very short. How extensive was the statutory instrument that introduced the levy on plastic bags? It, too, is very short. This Bill is similar. It is of the same school of legislation as the plastic bag levy and the smoking ban. It is absolutely appropriate for us to make a political decision. We introduced a smoking ban with short legislation. We introduced a levy on plastic bags with short legislation. A ban on single use plastics is absolutely correct and valid. This is political rather than technical legislation because, just like the previous levies when the Waste Management Act 1996 was used for the plastic bag levy and the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 was used for the smoking ban, our Bill uses existing provisions in the 1996 Waste Management Act which, we believe, gives us all of the tools we need to do what we seek to achieve. I would love to have a debate on Committee Stage with someone who disagrees with this analysis or thinks a ream of other legislation needs to be written to deliver the objectives we seek. I hear no one here disagreeing with this.

The closing remarks of the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, were very similar to much of what I heard from industry about how great and good we are. I am sorry but we are not good enough. I heard a representative of Repak, not the individual companies but the spokesperson for the organisation, admitting this and that the entire system needs to change. The line is put out by the Department that we are exceptionally good in this country because we have a brilliant producer responsibility scheme that other countries such as the US, Australia and Germany do not have. I am sorry but there needs to be an acknowledgement that the current system will not deliver the higher recycling rates we need.

The only disagreement we have on this is how much analysis we need on the 90% recycling target. The Minister said the Government will accept the target and my understanding is that the Government will promote it in the European Council and trilogue process. I presume this is done on some analysis and we are not just promising to do it in Europe without having some consideration as to how we might do it. The consideration has been done thanks to Mindy O'Brien of Voice Ireland, as well as Friends of the Earth, the Green Party research team which has done very good work on this, Dr. Dominic Hogg of Eunomia who is the best expert we brought before the committee, and the European Commission which has spent the past two or three years examining this in great detail. We are not flying blind without research having been done. If we commit to a 90% recycling target at the European Council tomorrow, as I understand Irish parliamentarians are ready to do, how will that target be achieved through anything other than a deposit refund scheme? I have asked this question previously and I have not received an answer. I ask it again this evening. If Ministers and their officials have another method of doing it and want to send me a written answer to this question tomorrow, I would love to hear it but I do not believe it exists.

This is the only point of contention and difference because, as I understand it, there is agreement on a ban on single use plastic knives, forks and plates. This has been the case in the committee. I understand there is also agreement on the introduction of a levy and a move towards compostable materials. We must be careful about this technology as there are all sorts of definitions of what materials can be used to make a cup. For this reason, the Bill will not introduce a smoking ban or achieve an end to plastic bags tomorrow. It states we will have three or four years to work out the mechanics of what exactly are the materials we want to promote. No one is disagreeing with the fundamental intention. The only disagreement is on the deposit refund scheme. The Government does not have a valid answer to the question as to what else it would do but it is banging its chest in Europe stating it is part of the 90% team. It would be more honest and more appropriate for us to state today that we will proceed to Committee Stage and, in the same way we introduced the smoking ban and the plastic bag levy, that we want to give a political signal. It would be fairer to industry and all of the shops, cafés and people to give this political signal. Sometimes this is what we need legislation to do. Our legislation does it in an absolutely correct way as part of a legal and European-supported process.

If the Minister states he will come back to us and prove he is willing to do this, I have a question. How long will it take the Department to come around and state it is willing to give this signal? How long will Fine Gael take? Will the Minister come back to us within a matter of weeks and state he has done the review and he thinks it is time for us to give that signal? It is not that we need to have the entire mechanics of the new system in place. That will take a couple of years.

How many weeks will it take the Government to give the all clear and issue a money message in order that the Bill can move to Committee Stage, proceed through the Houses and provide the people with another good news story on the environment? We are good at this. All that is missing is the new politics about which the young Swedish girl to whom I refer spoke in Helsinki last week.

Question put and agreed to.