I was the one who raised this issue. I wanted the committee to engage in further scrutiny of the proposal, against the advice in the Department's note, or the wider advice note. The provisions contained in this European draft directive mirror pretty much exactly, if the key provisions are boiled down, the provisions we set out in our Waste Reduction Bill, which the Dáil approved on Second Stage over a year ago. We have done some very good, detailed research. The Library & Research Service has done a lot of good work that has been very useful in looking at the consequences. This is a highly complex issue, particularly the introduction of a deposit refund scheme. There are all kinds of complex estimates that must be worked out, including how much money would be raised from the plastics and cans that would be recycled, the level of recycling that would be achieved with the scheme and what the scheme would cost to operate. The Library & Research Service did really good work reviewing all the various international examples that give us the broad parameters of what would be involved.
I fundamentally disagree with the Department if I heard Mr. Collins right when he said this is a transboundary issue and that marine litter must be dealt with on a transboundary basis. In fact, it seems clear from the European legislation that the European Parliament and Council are looking for national governments to legislate. Anyone who has been out during this beautiful summer on any beach, canal or river will know we have a huge litter problem, particularly with plastic bottles and cans at the most sensitive sites. This is not just an international, transboundary issue; it is a local litter issue.
The Minister agrees with the provisions of our Bill relating to the banning of certain plastic items, which again mirrors what is in the directive. We agree with him on the introduction of a levy on plastic cups in an attempt to switch to the compostable variety. The only thing on which he disagrees with us is the introduction of a deposit refund scheme.
There is every indication the directive will be passed. I do not hear a single voice in the European Parliament opposing it. It will not be contentious. I do not believe a single voice in the European Council is against it. There may be, but it will be carried, it seems to me. It is hugely politically and publicly popular. There is an obligation within it that by 2025 we would have to have a 90% recycling rate for plastic bottles, for example. The Department's own note states that, if it is agreed within a year, we will have to have a two-year post-agreement before we then legislate. This mirrors exactly the provisions within our Bill, which does not demand that the Department do something instantaneously, but rather provides for such a two-year period to process all the details. Given all this, and given that the industry representatives, who took a negative position on our Bill in our hearings here, have met me recently and said I was right that the European directive matched exactly what was in our Bill, why should we not proceed, or why would the Department argue we not proceed? How does the Department intend to achieve a 90% recycling rate and meet the estimates set out in the provision? This was debated at the Dáil reform sub-committee yesterday evening, where we sought senior counsel's advice on the idea that the only mechanism we may have is to take legal action with the European Union once this legislation is put through to show up the failing of the Irish Government to take seriously its obligations in respect of environmental legislation. This is why I wanted to bring the proposal before the committee for further consideration. I do not believe the advice that this does not have consequences; I believe it does. We should proceed to Committee Stage to tease out any difference of views on the introduction of a deposit refund scheme. In the absence of that, for the Department just to say we need more analysis and not to have any proposal itself as to how we might meet the 90% target rate we face would be a dereliction of duty on our part as a Parliament.