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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 30 Jun 2022

Vol. 286 No. 10

Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2022: Committee Stage

The Minister of State is most welcome to the House. I thank him for being here.

SECTION 1

Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 75, 101, 118, 121 and 125 to 127, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 1:
In page 6, lines 4 and 5, to delete “Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Act 2022” and substitute “Circular Economy and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2022”.

During the Second Stage debate, I mentioned that I intended to amend the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 to allow the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, to consider applications for integrated pollution control and industrial emissions licences that are subject to the provisions of section 181 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and that I intended to address that issue by way of amendment on Seanad Committee Stage. Amendment No. 125 makes provision for the EPA to accept and to process licence applications in line with existing provisions under subsections 181(2)(a) and 181(2A) of the Planning and Development Act, which currently it is unable to do. Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 sets out the requirements to which the EPA must adhere when assessing an application for a licence or a review of a licence. In order to accept a licence application for an activity that involves development which requires a grant of permission under the Planning and Development Act 2000, an application for planning permission or a specified approval must have been made or a grant of permission or specified approval under the Planning and Development Act 2000 must be in place. Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 does not refer to the new provisions of section 181 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 that were inserted in 2021. Amendments are required to ensure that the EPA can examine a licence application and, if that application is successful, grant a licence or a revised licence in accordance with the new provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000. These changes are simply to update and to align the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 with the amendments made to the Planning and Development Act 2000. The intention is to amend the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 in order that an application for approval under section 87 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 will also include an application for approval under section 181(2A) of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Similarly, it is intended to amend the definition of "grant of permission" in section 87 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 to include an order signed under section 181(2)(a) of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Without these amendments, those making temporary electricity generation proposals now being prepared to progress through section 181 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 would not legally be able to apply for or to obtain the necessary environmental licence in order to operate. The amendment I seek to make is an enabling one and will allow for the seamless linking of licence application and process, as envisaged in the 2021 changes made to the Planning and Development Act 2000. The full independence of the EPA in determining whether to grant or to refuse licence applications is not affected by this amendment. The EPA remains fully independent in that function and there is no statutory role for a Government Minister in that regard.

Amendment No. 126 creates a new Part in the Electricity Regulation Act to transpose the requirement in Article 59.1(b) of the internal market in electricity directive to give the Commission for Regulation of Utilities the power to ensure compliance by market participants that are not electricity undertakings with their obligations under the directive. These market participants include smaller actors in the electricity market, including citizen energy communities that are not engaged in the activity as their main business or economic activity.

Therefore, it is not appropriate to subject these actors to the more onerous licensing regime already in existence for electricity undertakings. This a significant new development in the Irish electricity regulatory framework, creating a regulatory framework for the participation of new actors in the electricity market and is an essential step in providing new ways for customers and a greater diversity of actors, including citizen energy communities, to participate in the market via electricity activities, including generating and trading electricity, aggregation, demand response and energy storage. Therefore, this is an important component in building resilience in the electricity market in Ireland and will help to accelerate the decarbonisation and democratisation of the market. By doing so, this new framework acts upon the European Commission’s call to speed up the transposition of the internal market for electricity directive which is the subject of a letter of formal notice and which is designed to effectively allow consumers to participate in energy markets as set out in the European Commission’s recent communication RePowerEU, which sets out the Commission’s response to the war in Ukraine.

There is a double urgency to transform Europe's energy system, namely, to end the EU's dependence on Russian fossil fuels and to tackle the climate crisis. The shift away from fossil fuels towards renewables is part of the circular transition as provided for in the circular economy strategy. The strategy is a key addition to Government’s drive to achieve a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to get on a path to reach net-zero emissions no later than 2050. The less we use non-renewable material resources like fossil fuels, the more circular and less resource-intensive the economy becomes.

Amendment No. 2 provides for the immediate commencement of these provisions on the enactment of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 75, 101, 118, 121 and 127 provide for a change in the Long and Short Titles to the Bill to the Circular Economy and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill to take account of these changes.

In regard to Senator O'Reilly's disallowed amendment regarding flimsy plastic cups, the Senator has addressed an important issue which has been part of public debate in recent weeks. My Department is aware of the concerns from both retailers and cup manufacturers that the flimsy plastic cups to which the Senator refers could become a feature of the market and be provided to customers at no charge which could be a way to avoid the levy. Such a scenario could result in increased plastic waste. This would be a bad environmental outcome and not one that the public and any environmentally responsible business would want to see. This amendment would close that potential loophole. I will look at introducing a reworded amendment on Report Stage to deal with that concern.

I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber. In speaking to this grouping, which deals with his amendments, I wish to outline my opposition to the way in which the amendments have been brought forward. The guillotining of this debate is in my view disrespectful to our roles as Senators and legislators. The changes being made are significant and were not subjected to scrutiny by the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action who conducted pre-legislative scrutiny of this Bill. The amendments were not scrutinised by a select committee and they landed on Tuesday night, not giving Senators enough time to look at them. The changes to the Bill being proposed are substantial. This is a bad way to do parliamentary work.

Today is International Day of Parliamentarism and I regret that today proper respect is not being shown to the Seanad and to our role as legislators. As we have not been given proper time to scrutinise the Minister of State’s amendments or this Bill, I will be opposing their inclusion at this Stage as I do not believe this is how this House should do business.

I echo what Senator Ruane said, and I raised this yesterday on Order of Business. It is a shoddy way to do business. With all due respect, if the Minister of State had raised it on Second Stage, why did we not receive a briefing note? The amendments came through on Tuesday night. There is still no justification. The first time we heard what the rationale was behind these amendments was in the Minister of State's statement this morning. I asked numerous people who are far better than I am at reading legislation what they thought of it and they all expressed concerns that the amendments are quite technical and that without an explanatory note with them, it would be very hard to justify why we are passing them at this particular Stage. They could have been brought to the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action even in an private session. A briefing with the Department would have been the respectful way to try and introduce them. They are not even on the Oireachtas website for the public to scrutinise. Will the Minister of State withdraw the amendments and bring them back on Report Stage and facilitate a briefing on both of them? Nobody wants the lights to go out in the winter but the Minister of State cannot bring in non-consequential amendments in this manner and expect Members to stand over allowing them pass through the Seanad.

There are two substantial amendments here. The first is to change the EPA Act. This is to allow for the licensing of emergency generators and to allow this to work in terms of planning permission. Currently, under the EPA legislation, a licence can only be granted where planning permission exists. In this case, the EPA Act will be changed to allow for a licence to be granted where planning permission has been disallowed under the emergency provisions introduced to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000.

We are facing an energy crisis. This emergency generation capacity is needed to avoid interruptions to our supply of electricity. To do that, we need to properly license and have planning permission or some form of legal disallowance of planning permission in place for these emergency generators. We need to change the EPA Act to make sure we have a legal basis for doing this. It would be nicer to have more time. I accept the concerns and criticisms from the two Senators that they did not get enough time for briefing. These amendments will be subject to ratification by the Dáil at a later Stage. I am not proposing to withdraw them.

The first is the EPA amendment to allow for emergency generation. The second is the transposition of the final part of the internal market for electricity directive. That is to allow such groups as community energy collectives to manage demand management and to buy and sell power from the grid. This is in response to the European Commission asking us to speed up the final transposition of this directive, which I believe is from 2019. Again, it is an emergency. It is part of the RePowerEU package in response to the Ukraine war that we make sure this energy directive is fully transposed. It is the final part, it is a good thing to do and I am not proposing to withdraw the amendments.

Nobody doubts the emergency measures that are needed to keep the lights on during the winter. The issue is the nature in which this is being done. We have two hours. Committee Stage will be guillotined. Many of us who are invested in what the Bill is supposed to be about, which is the circular economy, have submitted numerous amendments, have given it time, have attended PLS and are really invested in what the circular economy is about, but now we are being asked to pass two amendments which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Bill and which we have not had any time to scrutinise. We are not going to get to the amendments that are relevant to the Bill. This is a really shoddy way to do business and it is disrespectful to the House. I ask the Minister of State to withdraw these amendments and give Members time to scrutinise what they are trying to do. If they are about what the Minister of State says they are about and there are no unintended consequences, then of course we will support them. However, we are here to talk about the circular economy and we are not even going to get to half of the amendments we have worked on, submitted and spent time on.

The use of renewable energy, demand management and community energy supplies are all part of the circular economy and are directly relevant. As Senator Boylan said, we are in an emergency. It is important to keep the lights on and to have security of supply to deal with an energy crisis. I did not mean any disrespect by the way it was introduced. We brought it in as soon as we could. I am happy to continue discussing it on Report Stage. Again, it will go back to the Dáil for further discussion.

If they were relevant to the circular economy Bill, the Minister of State would not have had to use the facility of the Seanad to bring them in in the manner in which he did, which was to change the Order Paper yesterday. The reason he has had to do that is that the amendments are non-consequential to the circular economy Bill.

I note the Senator's comments.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 2:
In page 6, line 6, after “Act” to insert “, other than Part 7,”.
Amendment put and declared carried.
Section 1, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 2

Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 7, 34 to 40, inclusive, 42 and 43 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 6, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“ “ISO standard life-cycle impact assessment” means the quantitative tool “Life Cycle Assessment” (LCA), as defined by the ISO14040 and ISO140444 published by the International Organisation for Standardisation;”.

It is great to have the Minister of State here in the Seanad. We have a number of amendments and I have a few with Senator Dooley. Some of the later ones I would like to get into are a bit more meaty, so I will not propose to spend too long on amendments Nos. 3 and 4.

The reason we are bringing forward these amendments is because definitions are important. The more scope that we can have around definitions, the better it is for legislation as a whole. These definitions are required to provide that clear understanding and define the terms which are stated below within the proposed amendments, particularly in section 11 around the environmental levy.

We have more detailed amendments later on which I am keen to get to, so I will leave amendments Nos. 3 and 4 at that. I would be keen to hear the Minister of State’s thoughts.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this legislation in the House. This whole Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill should be about ensuring a reduction of the usage of plastic in our economy. If the Minister of State looks to the wider European approach, they have taken a more macro approach. I am thinking of Italy and other countries, for example, that have looked at attempting to reduce the amount of plastic in the economy.

I accept the issue that was raised in this country previously by the plastic bag tax. At the time, it was principally a litter measure more so than a reduction of plastic measure. It worked very well. People were much more cautious about the purchase and usage of plastic bags. It changed people's mindset. For sure, there are many people who have issues around the paper cup and the way in which it contributes to litter throughout the country. I am not so sure that the approach in this Bill is necessarily the right way to go about it for a whole variety of reasons. Principally, the amount of plastic in a paper cup is so small. I think the Government is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut when the consequence of moving people away from a paper cup with a relatively small amount of plastic contained internally for food safety purposes is for it to potentially be replaced by a strong, heavy plastic cup.

I would put on the record that there is a facility my in constituency, namely, a company called Cup Print, that employs many people. However, that is not why I am making the case. I tend not to parish-pump on important stuff such as this. The reality is, we still have little plastic cups such as the one in front of the Minister of State. We are not proposing any major elimination of those. However, at the same time, we are proposing to try to eliminate the coffee cup.

The reality is the vast majority of paper coffee cups with a very minute amount of plastic are compostable. Plastic cups like the one in front of the Minister of State are not. I have spoken to other elements of the industry and the expectation is that if the Government bans or puts a significant levy on what we know to be the paper coffee cup, the huge coffee industry will pivot towards the use of a reusable plastic cup. We all have keep cups. I have a couple in the car. Some are metal and some are heavy plastic. I have been shown plastic cups that can be produced for 10 cent to 15 cent. The reality is, if we make the paper cup expensive by virtue of either a significant levy or attempt to ban it, it will be replaced. People will continue to drink coffee.

Notwithstanding all our best efforts to have a reusable cup with us, the vast majority of coffee is purchased as an impulse buy. There are statistics to that effect. On my way to Leinster House, on occasion I will drop into Carol’s coffee shop across road, namely, the Petite Café. Carol does a great service. I will take a paper cup. I will dispose of it appropriately and that is the right thing to do. However, if I do not have my keep cup with me and she provides me with a plastic cup, I will take that too. I think I am just typical of a lot of people.

I am very worried that what we are trying to do here, which is the right thing to do to eliminate the litter, may be creating a situation whereby we will end up producing much more plastic reusable cups. However, because they will be produced relatively cheaply and will be of relatively poor quality, they will be disposable. I am not suggesting they will all be littering the sides of the road; they may not. They just go back into the trash can. That is creating more of a demand for plastic.

The amendments that I will be more interested in are about addressing that issue. Perhaps it will be for rules and regulations the Government will bring forward at a later stage. We need to be very cautious in moving from the litter issue. Perhaps we need to have a broader view.

No different to most people in this House, to get head space, I walk or run. When I go outside any village, within two miles of the village, when the foliage drops in the autumn and remains gone for the winter, I see an amazing amount of litter, from vodka bottles to Coke cans to cigarette wrappers, which all have plastic attached. There are paper cups, but they rot away, while much of the other stuff does not. I am just concerned that perhaps from a departmental point of view, this might seem like a nice headline: “We banned the coffee cup because it is a blight on the landscape”. We need to look again entirely at the way we manage waste. The model we have at the minute encourages people to be careless about waste because there is a charge on it. Should we be looking at the collection of waste for free? I would have discussed with the Minister for Transport on occasion about the idea of free public transport as a method of getting people away from using their car or taking unnecessary journeys in the car. Sometimes one has to make a very big policy change in order to change behaviour. Regarding litter and from a litter perspective, we should be moving towards some kind of municipal facilities, such as we do with bottle banks and used clothing. We have to get there.

I talk regularly to my local authority about the lack of bins in some beauty spots. The standard response from the top down is, "But sure you cannot be putting bins there. There will be domestic waste put in or around them." We are looking at it backwards if we are trying to eliminate waste. I see it throughout County Clare. Too much waste is dumped at night on quiet roads, often in very beautiful areas where people like to walk, run and go for a scenic amenity. However, the waste is there.

I would encourage perhaps the Minister of State or people within the overall architecture of government to come forward with a strategy to address litter - a very comprehensive one that involves education and encourages people to dispose of goods in a way that is much more sympathetic to the natural beauty of the environment. That requires a free service in a certain number of areas. The vast majority of people will adhere to and pay for the collection of their waste. However, there needs to be some kind of a municipal facility where the State carries the burden for those who do not or do not want to do so. It is a huge blight and it is not just coffee cups. It is a problem.

If the Minister of State takes a walk in the autumn along the road from any village, he will see the extent and amount of litter. I think he will be surprised - perhaps he has seen it already – by the stuff that gets dumped with a much higher plastic content than what we are talking about. I know the volumes are large here, but it is the quantum of plastic. That is what the whole idea of this initiative was originally based around, that is, reducing the production of plastic, rather than the way it is discarded on the other end.

We will debate the amendments, but I just wanted to set out my thoughts behind the matter. That is important.

As I said, a company in the Clare constituency employs many people. It is innovative and a good company. It has developed technologies relating to the production of paper cups, and it is changing materials all the time. It wants to be sympathetic to the environment and is trying to reduce its carbon footprint. It is doing that really well. If that were not the case, I would call the company out. It is working towards the future. Nevertheless, there is a potential hazard in what we are trying to do in that we might disrupt what the company is doing. The net effect would be that what we allow to develop behind it would have a far more negative impact on the environment than what is currently there.

I will be brief because we have many amendments to get through. If we do not get some of them on the record, we may not have the opportunity on Report Stage to table similar amendments.

Our amendment in this group, amendment No. 36, would allow the Minister to make regulations to exclude an environmental levy charge on customers for certain single-use items where those items are required by that person due to disability. In 2018, Greenpeace, the environmental NGO, stated:

As we move to rid our oceans, beaches, and parks of unnecessary single-use plastics, disabled people should not be used as a scapegoat by large corporations or governments who are unwilling to push suppliers and manufacturers to produce a better solution.

We should be phasing out single-use plastics completely, but it is important that companies are pushed to produce a flexible non-plastic alternative. I will not press the amendment because I would like the Minister of State to return with something on Report Stage that would push companies to produce environmentally sound alternatives to single-use plastics. I hope he is open to that.

I will speak briefly because, as Senator Ruane outlined, this is more about getting things on record. I certainly agree with that. It is unfortunate that my amendment was ruled out of order. I know we are not dealing with that section now, but Senator Dooley's comments make my contribution relevant at this point.

In the hierarchy of waste management, recycling and composting are down the list. We must get things out of our system and we do not need to be creating more waste while saying some of it is better than others. Fundamentally, this is about removing waste from the system from the start. It is quite difficult to compost items that are not composed of organic material in the same sense that food is. It is quite expensive, and there are also environmental costs involved.

It is important to note that we are talking about a levy for these paper cups but not a ban. That distinction is really important. My amendment would have addressed part of Senator Dooley's point. I know Senator McGahon will raise the same point. It concerns poor-quality alternatives. There is space in the Bill for this. I am thankful that the Minister of State indicated that he will come back on this matter on Report Stage. We do not want to find cheap alternative plastics being labelled as reusable and people using them instead.

Many businesses, including cafés, are very successfully operating zero waste policies. There are businesses like this cropping up around the country, and there are new opportunities for business. Those manufacturers of cups have alternatives. They are also manufacturing other items. It is not just about cups. There is no question of job losses, from what I have seen, and it seems that there are opportunities. We must get on the road with this and say that no waste is good. We must put in place something that creates alternatives for people.

I do not want to take much time either. Amendment No. 41 in my name has been ruled out of order. As a result, I plan to speak to amendment No. 42 in Senator Dooley's name because it refers to the same section and provision. I was not trying to impose a charge on the Exchequer, as has been deemed to be the case for the purpose of ruling my amendment out of order. That is an entirely spurious argument, and the amendment would not and could not impose such a charge. I proposed several amendments for parts of the legislation and each has been ruled out of order. In these cases, there are fixed monetary amounts in the Bill that would be fixed in the Act. These refer to what the Minister may or may not prescribe in terms of charges or other matters. Why on Earth would we do that when inflation will change those amounts? God knows we all know inflation is increasing; we hear about it from people who contact us every day.

There are provisions in section 11 that are the subject of amendment No. 42. These provide for charges. The amounts of up to €1 may be absolutely worthless in just a few years, or certainly in a decade or two. The proposal I make is that instead of prescribing these restrictions within the legislation, the Minister should be given the power to vary them by means of regulations. That would be a much more straightforward way for the Government to keep pace with changes in the value of the currency, if that is required, in instead of enshrining the amounts in an inflexible way in the legislation. That is the simple point I wanted to make.

With regard to the spirit of the amendment, I sympathise with the fact that we do not want the unintended consequences of flimsy plastic. That is why Senator O'Reilly's proposal to address such items, rather than not introducing a levy, is a better way to go. I agree that we must move to a system where we do not have single-use items. The end of the journey in this regard is to reduce waste.

I am concerned about potential greenwashing by companies. Even if a product is biodegradable or compostable by European Union standards, the reality is that if such items are put in the bin or are subject to the compost options available to us in this House, they will go into a regular bin. They would not be composted because they must go into an industrial composter in order to be broken down. Senator Dooley spoke about the paper cup going into a hedge. It should eventually break down but would not do so because it contains an amount of plastic.

I hope we will get to amendment No. 72 in my name, which outlines the idea of refillable containers not just in cafés but also in supermarkets. This is in order to completely shift the way we organise our society to going back to reducing the amount of waste in the first place. My amendment looks at what was done in France, where there are refill stations in supermarkets over a particular size. As I say, I sympathise with the fact that there may be unintended consequences from the provisions. There are ways of addressing that, however.

Am I correct in saying amendment No. 7 is in the group as well?

I will speak to amendment No. 7. I had not realised it was included in the group. The amendment gives a European context. There is a very good article in The Irish Times today in which that context is outlined. Amendment No. 7 would ensure that, within the interpretation of what constitutes a single-use cup, items that contain 10% plastic content or less would be excluded from being subjected to a levy or a ban. This outlines a better possibility by looking to the international implementations of the single-use plastics directive mentioned in the newspaper article in question. Italy is a good example in this regard because it applies an environmental levy to products with a plastic content above the 10% level. That is the key aspect.

Single-use items may be made of recyclable and renewable material. As Senator Dooley said, some contain a wafer-thin level of plastic. If the Bill focused on such items with the plastic content above this threshold, it would ensure that those products with the highest percentage of plastic would be the subject of a levy, thus facilitating an immediate 90% reduction in single-use plastic consumption. The knock-on effect would be to encourage consumer behaviour to move away from the purchasing of single-use cups that are 100% plastic or at least have a greater plastic content than alternatives which contain 10% plastic or less. We were doing some research on this but the article in The Irish Times really stands out in the context of international comparisons. I am interested in the Minister of State's view of that matter.

I will start with Senator Ruane. I absolutely appreciate the intention behind her amendment No. 36 to exempt people with disabilities from the provisions of the Bill.

In fact, the Bill provides that regulations will be put in place to work out the details of Bill. I am happy to consider those aspects at that stage. Before we make regulations to put a levy on any particular item, it must go out to public consultation and that is provided for in the Bill. That is the appropriate time to figure out what the exemptions will be and how it will be applied.

I agree with Senators McGahon and Dooley in that the definitions are important. It is important that loopholes are not created and that we do not have unintended negative consequences. A consideration of the plastic bag levy debate was what if it turned out that the bag for life was not really a bag for life. A definition has to be put on what constitutes a reusable item and a single-use item. It is important that we get that right.

As Senator Boylan said, we are not just trying to reduce plastic use. We are trying to reduce single-use items regardless of what they are made of. The whole idea of manufacturing a product and distributing it around the world, using resources when it is made of wood or plastic, for something that only gets used for a couple of minutes or seconds is part of the problem. There are two problems: reducing plastic and reducing single-use items. Part of the answer to reducing plastic is the single-use plastics directive. We banned certain items last July in line with the EU directive, but there are other things happening within the Bill. It requires that commercial waste be segregated. Later this year, I will introduce the roll-out of a deposit return scheme through which plastic bottles will be recycled. Different objectives are trying to be achieved.

Senator Pauline O'Reilly's disallowed amendment covers the same ground that Senators McGahon and Dooley are trying to address to make sure we do not have unintended consequences and a proliferation of cheap and flimsy plastic cups replacing paper cups. We must ensure items are reusable to a large extent.

Senator Ward asked why on earth we would put a limit on the amount of money a levy could be set at. Is that correct? Is the Senator wincing at my paraphrasing of what he said?

No, I am not. That is it.

The Senator was asking why we should put a limit on the amount, or maybe lower and upper bounds. The reason I am doing that is so that the Minister is not given too much power. I do not want a situation in which the Minister could put a levy of €100 on a cup of coffee, which would make no sense. What we are creating is an executive power for the Minister to, following public consultation, issue a levy on an item that is bad for the environment, but there should be some limit. Senator Ward is a barrister and will understand this better than me. The executive powers that we create for Ministers in the future should not be huge and unlimited. They need to have some kind of checks and balances on them. They could be reversed by the courts where they are found to be too powerful. What we have done is introduce a maximum charge of €1. This will allow for many years of inflation, I hope, before we reach that type of level. If we did reach a point at which we needed a new levy, when a levy of €1 is not enough on a single-use item, the Oireachtas could amend the legislation and change the amount. That is a frequent pattern in legislation in that fixed amounts are put in for maximum rates.

Regarding the proposal to introduce a 1 cent levy, such a levy would obviously have zero effect on behaviour. If we put a 1 cent levy on everything, it would collect a lot of money but it would have no effect on behaviour. As a result, I do not accept amendment No. 36 because I am willing to work through the regulations and examine the exemptions at that time.

Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 7, 34, 35, 37 to 40, inclusive, and 43 cumulatively appear to refocus the Bill on plastic single-use items rather than single-use items as a whole. Achieving a circular transition is a much broader issue than just plastic. The purpose of the levy is to influence people's behaviour away from single-use items, and not just plastic items, in all areas of our daily life. Therefore, I do not accept the amendments.

More than 22,000 disposable cups end up in landfill or incineration every hour in Ireland. That amounts to more than 200 million cups per year. This figure includes cups that are recyclable. The objective of the policy is to reduce the annual consumption of all types of disposable cups and, subsequently, other forms of single-use disposable packing by inducing people to change their behaviour and switch to using reusable cups. The objective of the levy is to change behaviour and prevent the use of single-use items in the first place and the continuous unnecessary use of resources that are required to go into the production and disposal of single-use items.

I am willing to meet with Cup Print or any other company that might be negatively affected by the regulations. When we are developing the regulations, I am willing to meet with any cafe operators or market participants who want to discuss how these measures will affect them. The Finnish paper mill, Huhtamaki, which owns Cup Print, has made a lot of money out of paper straws. It did not make any complaints about that when we switched to paper straws. It has been a profitable transition for the company. There are gains and losses, but what will not continue in the future is business as usual. There will be many opportunities for change in the green economy, as well as many opportunities to make money through different kinds of products.

Amendment No. 42 provides for the lowering of the minimum rate of the levy. We saw with the plastic bag levy that eventually the levy amount was too low to affect behaviour. Plastic bag usage started to go up again and the levy needed to be raised slightly. We saw a direct correlation between the size of the levy and the amount of usage of that product. A 1 cent levy is too low. I refer to the experience of other European countries. The plastic bag levy in Lithuania and Latvia was set at 1 cent and 2 cent respectively. Data shows that these small levies had a small effect, if any, on consumer behaviour. They may have succeeded in collecting money but they did not succeed in changing behaviour. That is the reason I will stick with a 20 cent levy.

Regarding the experiences in Italy, the UK and other countries that have brought in plastic taxes, we have looked at those jurisdictions. Rather than trying to tackle single-use items, they are particularly focused on plastic. I have asked the Department to look at whether a plastic tax is appropriate in Ireland having regard to the plastic taxes in operation in other countries. When such a tax is brought in, it increases the value of recycled plastic. We are seeing a lot of plastic material being exported from Ireland to those countries where it has become a valuable commodity. We will look at those jurisdictions, but we are trying to achieve two targets: the removal of single-use items and a reduction in plastic use.

I accept the Minister of State’s bona fides in relation to charging. I do not consider this to be a huge transfer of power to any given Minister. The reality is that we do not know how the landscape will change in the coming years. The Minister of State is quite right in saying that the Government can come back and amend the legislation. We already have in this Bill, which is an amendment Bill, a huge volume of amendments that make it even more impenetrable to ordinary people and more difficult. Another amendment Bill will compound that further.

The Minister of State knows that I support what is trying to be done in the Bill. When we were councillors together in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, I brought forward a bylaw to ban the use single-use plastics in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown that was passed by the council in March 2020. I support 100% what the Bill is trying to do. I agree with the Minister of State that small levies yield small results. Big levies, therefore, within reason, also yield big results. The danger is what happens when €1 is no longer enough. What happens when the power provided through this Bill is no longer expansive enough to make a difference to consumer behaviour? The Minister of State's answer seems to be that the Government will come back and amend the legislation when that happens. I suggest we should let the Minister change that in a public policy format, in an accessible and transparent way, so that the Government and the State can respond to consumer trends in a more flexible way than requiring the lengthy process of bringing the legislation back the Houses for amendment.

The Senator can propose an increase in the levy on Report Stage, which I will consider then, but it cannot be an infinite levy with no upper bounds.

It has been ruled out of order. That is the difficulty.

I want to come back to Senator Dooley's point about littering because I did not respond to it earlier.

Sorry, we are now speaking to amendments that are out of order.

I will let Senator Ruane in in a moment. The Minister of State was speaking.

Senator Ruane can come in if she wants.

On a point of order, we are speaking to amendments that are out of order. This is taking up time that should be spent speaking to amendments that are in order.

I would agree with Senator Ruane.

I spoke to amendment No. 42.

The Minister of State might reply and we will move on.

I am not accepting Senator Ward's amendment. He is welcome to introduce a modified amendment on Report Stage and I will consider it then.

On Senator Dooley's question about introducing a strategy on litter, I will consider that. All of this is relevant to the visible existence of litter. People are concerned about it. They relate to it. The Senator is correct that in the autumn all this litter appears. Anybody involved in Tidy Towns groups is well aware of that.

We will not push it to a vote.

We are happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 6, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:

“ “the Waste Management Directive” means Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives, as amended by Directive (EU) 2018/851 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.”.

We may introduce it again on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2 agreed to.
Sections 3 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 6

Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 15 to 23, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 8, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

" "climate justice" reflects the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change commitments on equity and "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” and requires that the decisions and actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change should—

(a) support the people who are most affected by climate change but who have done the least to cause it and are the least equipped to adapt to its effects, and

(b) safeguard the human rights of the most vulnerable persons;".

Amendment No. 5 seeks to insert a definition of "climate justice" into the Bill. This definition is the one Senators from all Opposition groups sought to insert into the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2021 last summer. The reason we are seeking to insert this definition into the Bill comes from a core issue with it, which is that it is too narrowly focused on Ireland and the Irish economy as existing in isolation from the rest of the world, as if not impacting on the rest of the world. Economic activity in wealthy countries such as Ireland is worsening the climate crisis for those in the global south. We see famine in the Horn of Africa at present, we see agricultural land across the African continent becoming unusable and we see the worsening climate emergency causing death and destruction for those who have done the least to cause it.

This amendment defines climate justice as reflecting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change commitments on equity and "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" and requiring that the decisions and actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change should support the people who are most affected by climate change but who have done the least to cause it and are the least equipped to adapt to its effects, and safeguard the human rights of the most vulnerable persons. The reason we have proposed this definition is because we have subsequent amendments which seek to incorporate these principles into the circular economy strategy, the programme and the wider provisions of this Bill. This is necessary because we see examples of how economic activity in this country is negatively affecting people and the environment in the global south, such as with fast fashion for which I will be tabling amendments on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 6 seeks to insert a definition of "just transition" into the legislation. It proposed to define just transition as a transition that ensures the economic, environmental and social consequences of the ecological transformation of economies and societies are managed in ways that maximise opportunities of decent work for all, reduce inequalities, promote social justice, and support industries, workers and communities negatively affected in accordance with nationally defined priorities and based on effective social dialogue. This relates to later amendments on planned obsolescence and on precious metals. We need to look at obsolescence in electronics and I will be tabling amendments in respect of this on Report Stage. It also relates to the environmental levy. I have concerns that we are only looking at consumption and not production. I will be returning to these matters on Report Stage.

This amendment is necessary to ensure that this legislation operates in a way which is equitable, which seeks to reduce poverty and which is based on social justice. When we are talking about transforming our economy and creating a circular economy, the measures that we take cannot be based solely on action at the point of consumption. There are deep inequalities in our society and we need to make sure that our ideas about creating a circular economy are not based solely on the idea of changing consumer choices.

Amendment No. 15 seeks to insert a provision that the proposed circular economy fund shall consist of such accounts in such financial institutions as the Minister may determine, and that those financial institutions must be operating within the State.

Amendment No. 16 and most of the next set of amendments seek to add to the things which the circular economy fund might be used for. Amendment No. 16 seeks to add that it may be used to assist the establishment, the equipping and, where appropriate, the operation of facilities which provide repair services. The right to repair is a significant issue and something which is sorely lacking from this legislation. In their pre-legislative scrutiny report on this legislation, the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action recommended that an examination should be conducted into the potential measures for addressing the challenge of planned obsolescence, particularly in relation to electronics. This should include a broad examination of international examples and potential measures could include a right to repair. In its submission to the committee, Voice Ireland recommended explicitly that a right to repair should be regulated for. This issue relates to just transition. There are examples from across the country of community repair facilities, such as repair cafés and men's sheds. This should be seen as a key part of where we can create decent work in a circular economy and reduce waste and the need for extraction for goods, particularly electronic goods. It also is a way to counter planned obsolescence which I have amendments on later.

Amendment No. 17 is a minor amendment to subsection (9) which seeks to insert the word "public" before "research" in the provision that the Minister may pay moneys out of the fund to assist, support or promote research and development with respect to any aspect of waste management or the circular economy. For the purpose of clarity, I will discuss amendments Nos. 17 and 19 together as they are deeply related. Amendment No. 19 seeks to add a provision that money can be paid out of the fund to assist the establishment of public-public partnerships for research and development in the area of the circular economy and waste management. Both of these amendments relate to a much wider issue affecting research in Ireland. That is the fact that we are seeing a significant emphasis on research to develop a product to be marketed but nowhere near the same emphasis on frontier of blue-skies research and research for the public good.

Amendment No. 18 adds the provision that in dispensing money from the circular economy fund, the Minister can dispense funds to assist, support or promote initiatives to restore, conserve and renovate buildings in order to reduce embodied emissions resulting from demolition. This is a significant issue. While I note construction is included in the sectors to which the circular economy strategy will apply, there should be a mechanism for the fund to support initiatives to restore, conserve and renovate buildings. My colleague, Senator Higgins, is a member of the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action which over recent months has had a series of hearings on the renovation wave across Europe and different sustainable approaches to building. What comes across is that the most sustainable building is the one that already exists, that is renovated and that maybe sometimes is extended or changed.

Amendment No. 20 seeks to add a new provision that the Minister can dispense funds from the circular economy fund to assist, support or promote actions or initiatives undertaken by international organisations or non-governmental organisations to further climate justice. I have already discussed the broader need for climate justice to be reflected in this Bill but this amendment is something tangible we could do to further climate justice. There are international organisations and NGOs which are advocating strongly for climate justice and we need to support them in their advocacy in relation to the circular economy and promoting more equitable and sustainable economic policies.

Amendment No. 21 seeks to add a new provision that the Minister can dispense funds from the circular economy fund to assist, support or promote actions undertaken by indigenous community groups internationally to protect the environment or to curb or oppose the extraction or exploitation of natural resources. We have seen across the world resistance to that dispossession and to the extraction and exploitation of land and natural resources, for example, the resistance of indigenous communities in North America at Standing Rock, which the Dakota Access Pipeline passes through.

Another is the resistance of the indigenous communities to a pipeline being built through territory of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in Canada. There are numerous other examples of land-grabbing and resistance across America and Africa but the core point is we should be supporting those who seek to stop extraction at its source. They often face great violence while trying to do so. This comes back to the core point of broadening the concept of the circular economy to the global dimension, which the committee recommended in its pre-legislative scrutiny report. We cannot simply look at consumption. We need to support those who resist exploitation of the natural resources used in products we are seeking to regulate.

Amendment No. 22 is again about transparency. I am concerned at the use of the phrase "other persons outside the State". It is very broad and should be defined more specifically. I am not going to press the amendment but perhaps the Minister of State might bring his own amendment or by regulation prescribe descriptions of persons who can avail of funding, just as a safeguard.

Amendment No. 23 is another amendment seeking to improve transparency and accountability in the legislation. It seeks to add that when a committee is established under section 8(14) to advise the Minister with respect to the performance by him or her of his or her functions under section 8(9) or section 8(12) that where a member of a committee established under section 8(14) has a material interest in a matter under consideration by the committee, he or she must declare that interest and subsequently recuse himself or herself from deliberations.

Amendments that effectively have the same effect as this group have been accepted with respect to both the Land Development Agency Act and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act. This will improve transparency and accountability and ensure people who have financial or other interests in something under the consideration of a committee are not involved in the decision on what advice to give the Minister or in directly advising the Minister. I urge the Minister of State to accept this amendment.

As a final point on the topic of just transition, we know particular communities feel the impact of climate change more severely than others. They pay a higher price in responding to the climate crisis. We cannot further compound inequality and disadvantage. Any transition must be just and fair. If we consider the strategies to respond to the climate crisis contained within this Bill and related to these amendments, some very evidently compound existing inequality and are in conflict with the principles of a just transition. Take, for example, the provisions regarding the installation of CCTV schemes in local authority areas or the use of personal recording devices by authorised officers to deter, prevent, detect and prosecute offences under the Bill. Particular areas and communities are surveilled more frequently and more intensely than others and that is likely to be compounded by the provisions within this Bill on CCTV and surveillance without adequate safeguarding. A just transition is based on a social dialogue. Instead of looking at a model of policing and surveillance, the burden of which will be felt more severely by particular communities, we must ensure we respond to the climate crisis through social dialogue and just and equitable transition. We will get to some of those later on.

I thank the Senator. Before I move to Senator Boylan, any Senators who have amendments down and had them discussed should indicate to the Chair if they are not moving them. In fairness to Senator Ruane, she said there she was not going to press an amendment. It is just to avoid confusion.

It is important. Also, if Senators want to get more of the amendments discussed, we need to keep moving on.

I speak in support of amendments relating to climate justice and just transition because it is important those two principles go through the heart of any of our legislation, now that we are taking an economy-wide approach to climate action. Later on, we hope we will be able to bring amendments on Report Stage around that idea of the right to repair because it is an important element of just transition. It mitigates against planned obsolescence because those who have less means are not always able to constantly buy stuff and it is up to us as legislators to ensure manufacturers are not building obsolescence into their products to force people to buy new products. It is likewise with the right to repair. You should be able to repair products as a fundamental right and we need to remove the barriers on that.

We also have amendments around civic amenity because not only is it relevant to the earlier discussion on littering, it also relates to the just transition as there are people across this State who do not have the same access to civic amenity sites. The hours are different and in some cases the tariffs are substantially different. For example, in one part of the country, you must pay to recycle a Christmas tree and in others it is completely free. We need to have that just transition principle of equality for everybody to be able to access the services when they want to do the right thing on waste management.

It is similar around the issue of food loss and waste. We have concerns with the Bill. We have amendments, which we will withdraw today and reintroduce on Report Stage, around the definitions of food loss and food waste. The Food Loss & Waste Protocol is a multi-stakeholder partnership, which has developed the global food loss and waste accounting and reporting standard. Its steering committee is made up of the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, and the World Resources Institute, among others. One of the things we seek to do is ensure there is a proper hierarchy around food waste in order that human food donation is prioritised over using human food for animal feed, for example, or reprocessing into non-food products. If there is food that is suitable for human consumption then its use for that should be prioritised. Again, looking at our European counterparts, there are bans in other European countries on the disposal of food fit for human consumption and supermarkets are not allowed do that. As I said, if we do not get to those amendments we will reintroduce them on Report Stage because they are key issues. It is also about the definition of food loss rather than food waste. I would like the Minister of State to address whether or not he will consider that element.

I thank Senator Boylan for indicating she will not be pushing an amendment later on.

The Minister of State may respond.

I thank the Action Chairperson and thank Senator Ruane for these amendments. I do not intend to accept Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 or Nos. 15 to 23, inclusive.

Section 8(9) of the Bill is a broadly-drafted provision that provides for how money from the circular economy fund may be used. The section is similar to the corresponding section in respect of the environment fund and it provides for a range of purposes relating to the protection of the environment and the transition to a circular economy.

Amendments Nos. 16 to 21, inclusive, provide for additional purposes for which these funds may be used. I have read through them and the section as drafted is appropriate for the purposes for which it is intended. The section provides the funds may be used for all purposes in respect of the protection of the environment. This includes the majority of what is being provided for under these amendments and as a result I will not be accepting them.

As amendments Nos. 5 and 6 provide for definitions used in amendments Nos. 16 to 21, inclusive, I am not going to accept those amendments.

Amendment No. 22 narrows the scope of section 8(9)(n) by deleting the words "or other persons". Under the Interpretation Act, "person" is defined as meaning a body corporate and an unincorporated body of persons, as well as an individual. It is important that where appropriate initiatives are undertaken in respect of the protection of the environment or sustainable development, funding is available to all organisations or persons that are in a position to undertake appropriate initiatives and therefore I will not be accepting this amendment.

I also do not accept amendment No. 15. There is no intention that accounts will be held in financial institutions outside the State and I do not believe this amendment is necessary. The amendment as drafted is also ambiguous as to financial institutions operating within the State and in other jurisdictions.

On amendment No. 17, it is not appropriate to limit funding to public research and development only, which would be the effect of this amendment. All payments from the circular economy fund will be carefully monitored to ensure the value of all research and development funded from the fund. Some very valuable research and development projects are carried out by the private sector with public funding and to narrow the scope of this provision would be inappropriate. I do not accept this amendment.

I am also not accepting amendment No. 23, as it is likely that such a committee will be comprised of members of either my Department or other public service bodies such as the EPA and as a result, the relevant public service codes of conduct will apply. That should have the same effect as this amendment.

In general, the circular economy fund replaces the environment fund. It can be used very broadly for anything that advances the case of our transition towards a circular economy and that can be done through grants, research or funding for businesses to switch towards the circular economy. Although a small business is a private institution that does not mean it should not receive some kind of funding to help it make a change where that is appropriate. That is the basic model of what is happening there. We have the existing example of the environment fund, which the circular economy fund will replace, which has been in operation for 20 years and with which we have much experience. This is a change from a general environment fund to a circular economy fund.

I will withdraw the amendment, reserving the right to resubmission.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 8, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

“ “just transition” means a transition that ensures the economic, environmental and social consequences of the ecological transformation of economies and societies are managed in ways that maximise opportunities of decent work for all, reduce inequalities, promote social justice, and support industries, workers and communities negatively affected, in accordance with nationally defined priorities, and based on effective social dialogue;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.
Section 6 agreed to.
SECTION 7

Amendments Nos. 8 to 13, inclusive, and 69 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 8:
In page 10, to delete lines 33 and 34 and substitute the following:
“(b) ensure that a poverty impact assessment in respect of the strategy has been carried out.”.

Amendment No. 8 is a small drafting amendment relating to the drafting of a poverty impact assessment under section 7. The amendment ensures that the Minister can procure the services of an expert group or body to carry out the assessment, if required, and that it does not have to be carried out by his or her Department.

There are other amendments grouped with this one. May I address those?

Should they first be addressed by the Senators who tabled them? What is the normal order here? I do not know the-----

The Minister of State may make his contribution before the Senators.

Okay. Whatever is normal.

This is a Government amendment. The Minister of State is allowed to make his contribution first.

There are other amendments in the grouping.

I have finished speaking to the Government amendment. Should the Senators now be allowed to-----

I will speak to my amendment No. 13, which I have mentioned previously and which is about the civic amenity sites across the country. I know that a review of the civic amenity sites was carried out and that there were a number of findings from that review, particularly on the tariffs, the opening hours, the different materials that are accepted and the postcode lottery with regard to being within a reasonable distance of a civic amenity site. Amendment No. 13 seeks to achieve greater harmonisation in respect of those issues while looking at the co-location of facilities with co-operative and social enterprises, including men's sheds. Again, it is a lottery as to how these facilities are run. Some civic amenity sites in the country do fantastic work. I know of one example, a social enterprise operated by someone who takes the dials and buttons off electrical equipment and puts them online in order that if you happen to have an oven, a fridge or whatever else that is no longer manufactured, you can get the replacement handles or dials. That is a one-off, however. What we want to see is this harmonisation such that, no matter where you live in the country, your civic amenity site will have similar tariffs and similar opening hours and will accept the same materials as the civic amenity site in the county next door. We also want to see that sharing, that public co-operation, whereby these wonderful social enterprises operate in conjunction with the civic amenities such that we can learn from those and replicate them around the country.

Amendment No. 9 seeks to include transport, including aviation and shipping, in the sectors listed as sectors which shall be included in the circular economy strategy. According to the SEAI, transport is by far the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions in Ireland. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2019, it was responsible for over 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions. The Minister of State will be aware that transport is a sector which has emissions reduction targets. Unfortunately, the carbon budget excluded emissions resulting from aviation and shipping. We also know that the State has been a bad actor in respect of transport emissions, namely from the subsidisation of fossil fuels used in the sector. The Government provided €2.4 billion in fossil fuel subsidies in 2019. The largest subsidy is the excise duty exemption for jet kerosene used for domestic and international commercial aviation. The revenue forgone from this measure in 2019 was €634 million. Again, this legislation needs to be broader and needs to take full account of economic activity as it happens within our planetary boundaries.

Amendment No. 10 seeks the deletion of section 7(6) and its replacement with a stronger provision for green public procurement. As the Minister of State will no doubt be aware, my colleague, Senator Higgins, has a passion for public procurement and has introduced her own legislation on the issue. In its pre-legislative scrutiny report on this Bill, the climate committee recommended, in recommendation No. 13, that explicit authority be taken in the Bill for evolving and promoting the uptake of sound principles in respect of design, procurement, packaging, logistics, retail, repairability, etc. Its recommendation No. 58 was that green public procurement be placed on a statutory footing and that specific provisions reflecting the importance of green public procurement and circular public procurement be included in this Bill and other related legislation. This is an area of great importance, given that we spent €12 billion on public contracts for goods, services and works in 2019. I believe that the OGP and the EPA have published guidelines on green public procurement, but those need to put on a statutory basis. We need to place quality and, in the context of the circular economy, environmental quality criteria at the heart of the public procurement process.

Amendment No. 11 relates to the right to repair. This amendment would insert the words "and availability" into the provision that targets within the circular economy strategy should result in increased levels of repair and reuse of products and materials. This is a relatively simple amendment and relates to the issue of just transition.

Amendment No. 12 proposes to insert a requirement that the circular economy strategy set out actions necessary to further just transition and climate justice in the context of the development of a circular economy. We have discussed the broader issues already but, specifically, this would require the strategy to take account of two of the most important principles when it comes to climate action. I have discussed the need for an equitable transition which addresses poverty instead of compounding it. It is based on a social dialogue and the need to ensure all our policies reflect our common but differentiating responsibilities in line with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Amendment No. 69 touches on a different but related issue, fast fashion. We know that, for so many people, clothing which is not produced sustainably is their only option because it is inexpensive. We also know, however, that the industry itself is a big polluter and, in the context of climate justice, has a hugely negative impact on indigenous fashion industries in countries in the global south. Recently, award-winning journalist Sally Hayden reported in The Irish Times:

In Ghana, second-hand garments that arrive from Europe and North America are known as "obroni wawu" – or "dead white man's clothes". Each week around 15 million of them find their way to Accra, the West African country's capital. About 40 per cent of what arrives is clearly waste, according to local activists, who say the African continent is being left to deal with the devastating effects of the West's overconsumption and the rise in fast fashion.

I urge the Minister of State to accept this amendment as it tries to refocus our work on the circular economy to the global dimension and would look to an industry that is a big polluter and whose practices go against the very idea of a circular economy.

I am not accepting amendments Nos. 9 to 13, inclusive. The civic amenity sites are the major interface for dealing with recycling and for the general public getting rid of waste and they are often not consistent from one place to another. Different waste streams are accepted and it is not always entirely clear why. It is confusing. I agree with Senator Boylan that men's sheds are part of the circular economy and are often overlooked. I notice that a lot of voluntary organisations make deals with civic amenity sites to collect various waste streams, whether bits of furniture, bicycles or whatever else. I would like to see more consistency in the civic amenity sites. There is a national waste management plan currently being developed across all the local authorities. That is the policy vehicle that will address the civic amenity sites.

The waste action plan contains a commitment to formalise the role of civic amenity sites and to agree a standard list of waste streams to be accepted. There will be consistency on this in future. The regional waste management planning offices recently published a national review of civic amenity sites. Discussions have commenced with the local authority sector on the implementation of the report recommendations that will allow civic amenity sites to play a greater role in our transition to a circular economy. It will also assist in continuing to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. On that basis, I do not propose to accept amendment No. 13.

Amendment No. 9 relates to activities that are inherently international. This is the amendment on shipping and aviation. It is very important that shipping and aviation are treated in the same way as other sectors and do not get a free ride. Otherwise people who are paying charges on their fossil fuels will have to watch airplanes and ships go past that are getting a free ride. That would not be fair. On the basis of equity this has to change. It has to change at international level rather than national level. The Bill is not the right vehicle for it. I assure the Senators that when Irish Ministers are in EU Council meetings discussing this with their corresponding Ministers they are making progress on it. In Luxembourg earlier this week, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, made progress on including aviation in the emissions trading scheme and making sure it has to pay for the CO2 emitted, and on moving towards alternative fuels for aircraft. Shipping and aviation have to be taxed in the same way as any other sectors that use fossil fuels. They cannot get a free ride. I agree with the sentiment in this regard.

On amendment No. 10, there is already text in the Bill that relates to public procurement. It is sufficient and I say this from the point of view of somebody who considers green public procurement very carefully. I do not agree with the text of the amendment, which I am not going to accept.

Amendment No. 11 proposes to change the definition of "levels" to include availability in the context of the number of repairs taking place. It already includes the concept of availability and reuse. As such, I will not accept amendment No. 11.

I will not be accepting amendment No. 12. The consultation requirements for the circular economy strategy were significantly amended in the Dáil and now include a specific requirement on the Minister to take the national disability inclusion strategy and the roadmap for social inclusion into account when making the circular economy strategy. I thank the Deputies who made the suggestions on Committee Stage to include the national disability inclusion strategy and the roadmap for social inclusion. As such, I do not believe amendment No. 12 is necessary.

Amendment No. 69 relates to textiles and clothing. Policy is being developed on textiles, with a multi-stakeholder working group having been formed by the Department to inform the process. As a result of this, legislative amendments may be appropriate in the future but I do not believe they are necessary at this time.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

"(V) transport, including shipping and aviation;".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 11, to delete lines 26 and 27 and substitute the following:

"(iii) shall ensure that criteria relating to the circular economy including, but not limited to, life-cycle costing and waste prevention criteria are utilised in public procurement.".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 11, line 34, after "levels" to insert "and availability".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 12, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

"(b) actions necessary to further just transition and climate justice in the context of the development of a circular economy, and".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 12, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

"(c) how to achieve greater harmonisation of civic amenity site services in terms of opening hours, materials accepted, accessibility, tariffs charged and an examination of the co-location of these facilities with cooperative and social enterprises such as Men’s Sheds.".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

Amendments Nos. 14 and 74 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 12, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"Right to Repair

8. (1) The Minister shall, within 12 months of the passing of this Act, prepare and publish a report examining how a right to repair can be introduced in Ireland.

(2) This report shall examine how the introduction of minimum design requirements, allowing for the easy disassembly and replacement of key components, can assist in giving people a right to repair products.

(3) The report shall also examine whether a Scoring System on Repairability as part of the existing energy label for all energy-consuming products, can be introduced, to inform consumers of the repairability of a product at the point of purchase.".

Amendment No. 14 deals with the right to repair. It proposes that 12 months after the passing of the legislation, the Minister would prepare and publish a report examining how the right to repair can be introduced in Ireland. I know the EU is looking at this but that should not be a barrier to Ireland doing this itself. The report would also look at the introduction of minimum design standards allowing for the easy disassembly and replacement of key components, and a scoring system on repairability as part of the existing energy label for all energy-consuming products. This would mean that when people buy a product they at least have this information and can make an informed decision on whether they want to purchase the item based on the ability to repair it.

Amendment No. 74 calls for a ban on the dumping of new non-food products, whereby the producers, importers and distributors of new non-food products intended for sale are required to reuse them by donating them to charities, NGOs, second-hand shops, social enterprises or as may be defined in the regulations by the Minister. This goes to the awful stories we have seen of large companies such as Amazon dumping brand-new televisions purely because they had not been sold. The amendment would ban this and the companies would have to find a source for the goods. They would not be able to dump them.

I absolutely agree with what the Senator is trying to achieve. However, I will not be accepting amendments Nos. 14 and 74, which deal with different aspects of how we use and dispose of consumer goods. Significantly enhanced repairability and ease of maintenance of consumer goods is an essential component of the circular economy. The whole-of-government circular economy strategy recognises this and commits to the development of a circular economy for consumer goods with an enhanced focus on the repair sector in Ireland. Meaningful changes to requirements on, for example, product design, guarantees, consumer information and labelling can be most effectively implemented by way of comprehensive EU legislation rather than through national measures, which can be piecemeal. This is particularly true for those member states which represent relatively small markets, such as Ireland.

The European Commission recently announced comprehensive measures in the form of a proposal for a regulation on ecodesign for sustainable products and a proposal for a directive to empower consumers for the green transition through better protection against unfair practices and better information. The proposed ecodesign regulation will address product design and set new requirements to make products more durable, reliable, reusable, upgradable, reparable, easier to maintain, refurbish and recycle and more energy and resource efficient. The proposed directive on consumer information will support improved participation of consumers in the circular economy through the provision of information on the durability and reparability of products and by enhancing consumer protection against unfair commercial practices that prevent sustainable purchases. These include greenwashing, built-in obsolescence and the use of unreliable and non-transparent sustainability labels and information tools.

The EU is working on this. What the public will see are labels on consumer goods that are similar to the type of labelling that indicates energy efficiency. Products will have a clear colour-coded A, B, C, D, E or F rating to indicate the durability of the product, how long it will last if bought and how easy it will be to repair it. People will be able to tell they are buying a product that will give them five, ten or 15 years service and they can make an informed consumer decision. To do this we need a testing mechanism from an independent body that provides reliable results on the lifespan of a product and how repairable it is. This will be backed up by European rules to force manufacturers to provide spare parts and manuals so that we get away from built-in obsolescence. Built-in obsolescence is not a myth. It is a real design philosophy for some companies.

I am sure of that from speaking to the people who work in the repair sector. They have told me that even some high-end products are designed in such a way that after a certain period people need to buy another product. Moving towards more durable products is a return to the way that products were designed in the past. That is a welcome addition and is happening at an EU level. One of the people who is working on that is Ciarán Cuffe, MEP, whom I will meet soon and he is deeply involved in the right to repair. I believe we can really achieve something at an EU level that we cannot do at a local level. However, at a local level we can help anyone who is involved in the repair sector through grants or funding from the circular economy fund, when it is set up. That could be entities like men's sheds, repair cafés or repair shops. The right to repair is extremely important and I think that it will have a lot of public support. I do not propose to accept these amendments, however.

I appreciate the Minister of State's response and understand that it is easier to verify information on the lifespan of products at an EU level. I ask him to address amendment No. 74, which pertains to a ban on the dumping of new non-food products. This is an example where we know that an EU member state has already gone ahead and done this. In France, there is legislation where retailers are obliged to look for other options for unsold products, including donation or recycling. It is senseless for perfectly good products to end up being wasted in landfill or being incinerated. Also, if products are going straight from the shelf to landfill without even being used once then there is extra embodied carbon, and there is all of the waste of energy and raw materials that went into making these products. This is a critical part of the circular economy. I would like to hear the rationale as to why we cannot follow the very good example set by France in this regard.

It is a shocking practice where a commercial company, retailer or Internet retailer takes perfectly good consumer goods from a shelf and puts them straight into landfill or destroy them because they have calculated that they will get a better return on investment or a higher profit by actually destroying working consumer goods. The EU has agreed a general approach to that and an anti-dumping provision will be included in EU rules. I am not familiar with the French legislation but I will take the time to see what they were able to do in line with the EU rules. Again, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

I withdraw my amendment and reserve the right to resubmit on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SECTION 8

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 13, line 7, after “institutions” to insert “operating in the State”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 13, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

“(d) to assist the establishment, equipping and, where appropriate, the operation of facilities which provide repair services;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 13, line 34, after “promote” to insert “public”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 13, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

“(e) to assist, support or promote initiatives to restore, conserve and renovate buildings in order to reduce embodied emissions resulting from demolition;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 13, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

“(e) to assist the establishment of public-public partnerships for research and development in the area of the circular economy and waste management;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 14, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“(n) to assist, support or promote actions or initiatives undertaken by international organisations or non-governmental organisations to further climate justice;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 14, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“(n) to assist, support or promote actions undertaken by indigenous community groups internationally to protect the environment or to curb or oppose the extraction or exploitation of natural resources;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 14, line 23, to delete “or other persons”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 15, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

“(15) Where a member of a committee established under subsection (14) has a material interest in a matter under consideration by the committee, they must declare that interest and subsequently recuse themselves from such deliberations.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 8 agreed to.
Section 9 agreed to.
SECTION 10

Amendments Nos. 24, 25 and 27 to 29, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 16, line 4, to delete “Agency” and substitute “Minister”.

The amendment seeks to assign responsibility for the circular economy programme to the Minister as opposed to the EPA. This is an issue that arose during the pre-legislative scrutiny stage and may have been one of the recommendations. We feel that it is appropriate while understanding the responsibilities and competencies of the agency that the Minister is defined in legislation, and is ultimately the accountable person.

Amendment No. 25 seeks to insert the provision that a circular economy programme shall "reflect the principles of just transition and climate justice”. We have already extensively discussed the issue of the reflection of these two principles in the legislation more broadly. This amendment seeks to say in law that the circular economy programme must reflect the principles of just transition and climate justice. It is not an overly-prescriptive requirement. It is one which would strengthen the legislation both in terms of facilitating an equitable transition and creating a requirement that our circular economy policies align with our international obligations in respect of climate justice both within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, and the Paris Agreement.

Amendment No. 28 is a relatively simple amendment. It seeks to change the timeframe in which the agency must review the circular economy strategy from at least once every six years after the publication of the first strategy to once every three years. Once every six years is too long a timeframe. We should seek to identify problems or issues with the operation of the programme as quickly as possible. We need to be able to do so quickly because we are in a climate emergency and are running out of time.

In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Sixth Assessment Report, from working group III. The press release for the interim report stated, "In the scenarios we assessed, limiting warming to around 1.5°C (2.7°F) requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030". As 2025 is just two and half years away, we cannot wait for six years to meaningfully review these provisions. On that basis, I do not believe that even our own amendment goes far enough and I may seek to reduce the period even further to two years on Report Stage. I urge the Minister of State to reflect on this matter and table amendments to reduce the timescale.

Amendment No. 29 is a simple amendment that seeks to include the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action as one of the organisations to which the agency will give a copy of the circular economy programme, once it is published. As this is the relative sectoral committee for this legislation, it is important that the committee be kept informed. On Report Stage, my colleagues and I may table amendments to mandate that the views of the committee be sought when conducting a review.

The amendments in this group relate to the circular economy programme. The programme gives effect to the objectives set out in the circular economy strategy. The strategy is prepared by the Minister and approved by the Government. As such, the programme gives operational effect to the objectives in the strategy, which are drafted by the Minister and subject to Government approval. It is appropriate, therefore, that the new programme, which includes statements of the EPA's existing waste prevention programmes, is established by the EPA. The agency is an independent statutory body. It would not be appropriate for the Minister to contravene that independence by intervening on EPA operational decision-making. It is for that reason I do not propose to accept amendments Nos. 24 and 27.

The circular economy programme is a long-term programme. I believe that six years is an appropriate length of time for the programme to be effective and achieve real results. I think that a three-year programme is not long enough. It would also run the risk that excessive resources get caught up in an ongoing cycle of drafting new programmes at the expense of making progress with the objectives of the programme itself and for that reason, I do not propose to accept amendments No. 28.

The circular economy programme gives effect to the objectives of the circular economy strategy. As I said earlier, the strategy includes a specific requirement on the Minister to take the national disability inclusion strategy and the roadmap for social inclusion into account. I think that this will give effect to what amendment No. 25 seeks to achieve. As a result I do not think that amendment No. 25 is necessary and I will not be accepting it.

Lastly, I do not propose to accept amendment No. 29. The agency may furnish a copy of the programme to any person, body, organisation or group that the Minister may prescribe for the purpose of the section. I am happy to request that the EPA furnishes a copy of the programme to the committee. Given that the functions of committees tend to change over time, and I think that the committee name will change as well, so I do not think it is appropriate to include the name of the committee in the legislation. I confirm that I will not accept amendment No. 29.

I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 16, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following: “(ii) reflect the principles of just transition and climate justice,”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 26 not moved.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 16, line 21, after “The” to insert “Minister and the”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 16, line 22, to delete “6 years” and substitute “3 years”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 16, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

“(ii) the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action,”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 10 agreed to.
SECTION 11
Amendments Nos. 30 to 33, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 17, to delete lines 34 to 36 and substitute the following:

“(2) In making regulations under subsection (1) in relation to a single-use item, the Minister shall have regard to:

(a) the material wastage associated with the single-use item or, as the case may be, the class or classes of single-use item, concerned; and

(b) the total percentage of plastic content within the material of the single-use item or, as the case may be, the class or classes of single-use item, concerned.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 17, to delete lines 37 and 38, and in page 18, to delete lines 1 to 4 and substitute the following:

“(3) Regulations may be made by the Minister under subsection (1) where he or she is satisfied that, having regard to the purpose for which, and circumstances in which, the single-use item or class of single-use item concerned is supplied, in respect of the single-use item or, as the case may be, the class or classes of single-use item, concerned:

(a) a suitable re-usable alternative;

(b) a suitable alternative with a lower level of material wastage; and

(c) a suitable alternative that provides a better environmental outcome justified through ISO standard life-cycle impact assessment is, or could be made, readily available.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 18, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

“(4) The Minister may make regulations to exclude an environmental levy charge on customers for certain single-use items where those items are required by that person due to disability.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 18, line 8, to delete “aim” and substitute “aims”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 18, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(c) reducing material wastage,”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 18, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(c) encouraging the use of single-use items made with materials which containing relatively lower levels of plastic, and”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 18, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(c) improving environmental outcomes through compliance with, and implementation of, the waste hierarchy referred to at Article 4 of the Waste Management Directive,”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 41 not moved.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 18, line 13, to delete “less than €0.20 or more than €1.00” and substitute “less than €0.01 or more than €1.00”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 18, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

“(5) In making regulations under subsection (1) in relation to a single-use item, and in prescribing the amount of any levy under subsection (4), the Minister shall ensure that any such regulations and any such levy are—

(a) proportionate, having regard to:

(i) the aims referred to in subsection (4),

(ii) the level of plastic used in the material contained in the single-use item or class of single-use item concerned, and

(iii) encouraging the best overall environmental outcome through compliance with, and implementation of, the waste hierarchy referred to at Article 4 of the Waste Management Directive,

and

(b) non-discriminatory as between producers and retailers of the single-use items referred to at paragraph (a) of subsection (1).”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 11 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 not moved.
Section 12 agreed to.
Section 13 agreed to.
SECTION 14

Amendments Nos. 46 to 53, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 22, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(e) electronic devices constructed with absolute obsolescence built in;”.

Amendment No. 46 seeks to add a new type of items which the Minister may by regulation prohibit a supply of in the State. This amendment seeks to give the Minister the power to ban the supply of electronic items with absolute obsolescence built in. I will speak to amendment No. 48 as well, as that amendment seeks to give the Minister the power to ban the supply of electronic items with relative obsolescence built in. For context, “obsolescence” is the question of how and when a product reaches the end of its useful lifetime and is replaced with a new one.

Amendment No. 53 seeks to add a definition to clarify my amendments. According to the European Environmental Agency, EEA, “absolute obsolescence” happens when a product no longer functions for objective reasons because of mechanical failure or incompatibility of software. “Relative obsolescence” means that the product is still functional but is considered obsolete because of a desire for a new item - if this desire is for psychological, style, cosmetic reasons, it is aesthetic obsolescence; if a new product has better quality, functionality or effectiveness, it is technological obsolescence; and if the price of the repair or upgrade is too high compared with a new product, it is economic obsolescence.

According to a paper by the European Parliamentary Research Service, for some products, such as washing machines, the main the driver for purchases of new items is absolute obsolescence. For mobile phones or televisions, relative obsolescence is more important. According to the EEA, a product becomes prematurely obsolescent when it breaks down early compared to what is a possible, which is the designed lifetime, or compared with what is desirable, which is the desired lifetime. This is often built in to electronic devices and these two forms are known together as “planned obsolescence”. In its pre-legislative scrutiny of this legislation, the climate committee recommended that an examination be conducted into potential measures to address the challenge of planned obsolescence, particularly in relation to electronics. This should include a broad examination of international examples and potential measures could include a right to repair. The committee pointed out that both France and Italy have legislated to ban planned obsolescence, and although they have challenges, it is an issue that needs strong regulatory action.

I will come now to amendment No. 47, which is closely related to the issue of obsolescence in electronics. Amendment No. 47 seeks to add products that require precious or rare earth minerals to complete the list of items which the Minister may by regulation prohibit the supply of in the State. In its pre-legislative scrutiny report, the committee recommended that there should be specific measures for tracking, reuse and repair of products that are built with critical materials such as precious minerals. It also recommended that given the importance of the management of minerals, including precious minerals, in the context of national and global circular economy strategies, regulation and, where necessary, limitations in respect of the extraction of such minerals should be considered.

I have spoken previously about extraction in the context of climate justice, but in the context of this amendment, it is worth noting that at least $10 billion worth of gold, platinum and other precious metals are dumped every year into the growing mountain of electronic waste polluting our environment, according to the United Nations Global e-Waste Monitor 2020 report. A record 54 million tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2019. For context, this is equivalent to 7.3 kg for every person on this planet, but obviously much of this waste is generated in the global north. The report cites the lack of regulation and the short lifespan of products that are hard or impossible to repair as reasons for this much waste.

This set of amendments would allow us to seriously begin to reduce the damage being done by the extraction of precious metals and minerals which are deeply linked to climate justice and to try to curb the neocolonial aspects of production of electronic goods and the extraction and exploitation required to produce those products. I urge the Minister to accept these amendments.

I will speak to amendments Nos. 49 and 50. The Minister of State will be familiar with amendment No. 49 because it was raised in the Dáil on Committee Stage as well. It refers to the perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, otherwise known as PFAS. These are the coatings that are used in single-use items. It was raised with us under pre-legislative scrutiny. In fact, a report that was lodged with the committee found that items which are used for takeaway materials in the Oireachtas have much higher levels of PFAS lining in them than what is considered safe. However, this is not just about the health implications for people who are eating items out of products that have PFAS linings; it is also about the manufacture of them. During my time in the European Parliament, there was an Italian community that was completely destroyed. Its water source was absolutely undrinkable and there were huge health implications for an entire village because they were manufacturing these chemicals there. I would like to hear the Minister of State’s response as to whether he can accept this amendment.

I would like to speak to amendment No. 52, which I have tabled with Senator Dooley. We want to insert the word “recyclable” after the word “suitable”. I will give some background to the rationale for this proposal and explain why Senator Dooley and I want to pursue it. If a ban is applied to a single-use item by the Minister on the basis that a suitable reusable alternative is readily available, this amendment will ensure the reusable alternative is both recyclable and readily available. It will alleviate the risk that plastic reusable alternatives which are not recyclable are considered by the Minister as the readily available alternative. That is thought process behind this amendment. It would also avoid the unintended consequences of cheap 100% plastic cups claiming to meet the definition of “reusable” being selected as the suitable alternative. That is the thought process behind this amendment. Once again, we would be keen to hear the Minister of State’s views on it.

I am reiterating the point that I addressed earlier in relation to the first group of amendments. It goes back to this concern that others and I have about the unintended consequences of what we are trying to do here. I have been shown cheap alternatives to the paper cup that are marginally more expensive. I have spoken to people in the hospitality trade who sell coffee and are of the view that there will be plenty of people who still will not have a long-term keep cup. There is no doubt that the industry will fill that void with a cheap alternative that has the capacity to be discarded after a single use. The impact of the life cycle of a product will mean that a piece of chunky plastic, even if it is recyclable, is draining resources to provide for a demand in the marketplace. People will not stop drinking coffee in an unplanned and an incidental way.

The industry will find an alternative, as it always does, whether that be glass or plastic, which is the more likely option. When it comes to the regulations, we have to be careful that our eyes are wide open in terms of how we push demand elsewhere. I accept what Senator Boylan stated in respect of there being a film of plastic, albeit a very small one. Let us work to find a system or product that breaks down. While that is not ideal, the reality is that replacing it with a chunk of plastic would be a cheap alternative. My experience is that people attending an event get a bag from various companies with a plastic keep cup or whatever. Some of them are very poor quality. If a person uses it while driving - dashboard dining, as many of us have to - the cup drips, the person decides not to use it again and it is thrown away. We have to be careful-----

The debate will be finishing in ten minutes.

I apologise. I know we are short on time. It is important to reiterate that we are mindful of avoiding unintended consequences arising from the Bill. The amendment attempts to speak to that. I hope the Minister of State can accept it. If not, I will listen to his views on it and hope he can find a way to embrace what we are trying to achieve here. In effect, we are all on the one side; it is just about how we do it. That is what is important.

With regard to amendment No. 49, the PFAS family of chemicals is a significant concern in the EU and globally as these chemicals can cause long-lasting environmental damage and adverse health impacts. In this regard, it is important that they are comprehensively regulated at EU level rather than through the national legislation of individual member states.

In recent years, the EU has set in place several new strategies aimed at strengthening chemical legislation to ensure that chemicals are safe and sustainable by design and that the most hazardous chemicals are banned. My Department, along with other Departments and agencies that have responsibility for chemicals policy, is actively engaging with the EU on this matter and strongly supports the initiatives being undertaken at EU level. These include the farm to fork strategy, the chemicals strategy for sustainability and the European Commission review of the packaging and packaging waste directive. The effective regulation of PFAS is appropriately being addressed at EU level and Ireland is actively engaging with our EU colleagues on a number of initiatives in this regard. That is why I am not accepting this amendment.

As amendment No. 50 is consequential on amendment 49, I will not be accepting it.

As regards amendments Nos. 46, 48 and 53, similarly, meaningful changes to requirements in respect of these issues can be most effectively implemented by way of comprehensive EU legislation, rather than through national measures, and I will not be accepting these amendments.

Amendment No. 51 relates to transnational shipments of waste, including to non-EU countries, which is already highly regulated under EU legislation. The Bill provides that material wastage associated with a product or class of products must be considered when making regulations. I am satisfied that the combination of these measures adequately addresses the issues referred to in the amendment and I will not be accepting it.

Regarding amendment No. 52, it is possible that an alternative to a single-use item may not be recyclable but it may be the best alternative because it is, for example, highly durable and can be used indefinitely. The Bill should ensure that it accommodates that situation where the alternative is something that is extremely durable but not recyclable. For that reason, I am not accepting the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 22, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(e) products which require precious metals or rare earth minerals to complete;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 22, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(e) electronic devices constructed with relative obsolescence built in;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 22, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(e) food contact materials in which perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used;”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 22, line 15, to delete “paragraphs (a) to (d)” and substitute “paragraphs (a) to (e)”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 22, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:

“(3) In making regulations under this section, the Minister shall have regard to the methods of disposal of single-use items outside the State and the effects upon local communities where waste arising from the disposal of such items is processed or delivered to.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 22, line 22, after “suitable” where it secondly occurs to insert “recyclable”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 22, after line 37, to insert the following:

“(8) In this section—

“absolute obsolescence” refers to a product or item which is constructed with a`planned finite lifespan so it will not function mechanically after a certain period of time;

“relative obsolescence” refers to a product or item which is constructed to remain functional after a certain period of time but is obsolete due to—

(a) a desire for a new item due to psychological, aesthetical, or cosmetic reasons,

(b) a new product having better quality, functionality or effectiveness, or

(c) the price of repair or upgrade is too high compared with a new product making it economically obsolete.”.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 14 agreed to.
SECTION 15

Amendments Nos. 54 to 68, inclusive, 71 and 72 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed?

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 23, line 4, after “food” where it firstly occurs to insert “loss and”.

These amendments are all connected. I touched on this earlier. Some of them relate to the definition of food waste as compared with food loss. Many people are familiar with food waste and that one third of food purchased goes into the bin without being consumed. That is just the food that makes it to the shop or retail outlet. Food loss relates to food that might not even make it as far as the shop. It may relate to a farmer deciding it is more economical to leave a crop in the field than harvesting it, or to a product that is damaged in transport. It is important that we capture the full definition of food waste which incorporates that idea of food loss.

As I stated earlier, amendment No. 63 relates to the hierarchy of food waste and encouraging food donation and redistribution for human consumption being prioritised over using human food for animal feed or for reprocessing into biofuels or non-food products.

Amendment No. 65 calls for an annual review to evaluate the outcomes against the stated deliverables of the national food loss and waste prevention strategy, based on data collected from all food sectors and the waste industry, and to provide recommendations on the adjustment of the national food loss and waste prevention strategy or other measures, including financial measures, to address any barriers or shortfalls as may be identified by the review.

Amendment No. 68 relates to the definition of food waste. We need to distinguish between food loss and food waste. That would be in line with the international protocol and have the added benefit of allowing us to have greater comparison between countries across the world.

As regards amendment No. 72, I touched on this earlier. It relates to a supermarket refill station report. It asks for the Minister to prepare and publish a report examining how retailers can reduce the amount of plastic packaging in Ireland "by encouraging customers to use reusable containers through s through greater requiring a minimum amount of floor space be dedicated to refill stations". As I stated, this measure is in place in other EU member states. Large supermarkets over 400 sq. m are obliged to have a percentage of that floor space dedicated to refillable or reusable items. We know that dried food goods and detergents are wide open to being used in this way. They can be sold in refillable containers. The requirement in France is that all supermarkets larger than 400 sq. m allocate 20% of floor space to reusable or refillable products.

Amendment No. 46 seeks to add types of items that the Minister may, by regulation, prohibit the supply of in the State. I refer to a matter that was not mentioned in the previous section, that is, a ban on virgin plastics. I want to get that on the record for the next session.

Amendment No. 46 seeks to give the Minister the power to ban the supply of electronic items with absolute obsolescence built in, while amendment No. 48 seeks to give him the power to ban the supply of electronic items with relative obsolescence built in.

I am going to put the question shortly. I will give the Senator another few seconds.

I thought the Acting Chairperson was asking me to report progress. Amendment No. 53 seeks to add a definition to clarify my amendments.

We can report that the progress is good.

It is great progress

According to the European Environmental Agency, absolute obsolescence happens when a product no longer functions for objective reasons because of a mechanical failure or incompatibility of software.

As it is now 11.30 a.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Seanad of Thursday, 23 June 2022: "That amendment No. 54 is hereby negatived in committee; the Government amendments undisposed of are hereby made to the Bill; in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, the section or, as appropriate, the section as amended, is hereby agreed to in committee; and the Title, as amended, is hereby agreed to in committee".

Question put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 5 July 2022.
Cuireadh an Seanad ar fionraí ar 11.32 a.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar méan lae.
Sitting suspended at 11.32 a.m. and resumed at 12 noon.
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