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Environmental Policy.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 13 April 2005

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Questions (26)

Paul McGrath


62 Mr.P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount generated by the plastic bag levy in 2004; the areas in which these funds were spent ; if he intends to propose changes to the Department of Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11041/05]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Total receipts for the plastic bag levy on disposable shopping bags for 2004 amounted to €13,498,491. Receipts from this levy are remitted to the environment fund, which is also funded by the landfill levy. The purposes for which payments may be made from the environment fund are prescribed in legislation.

In 2004, €49 million was spent from the environment fund on a wide range of activities, including the following: waste management infrastructure and the subvention of local authority recycling operational costs; environment awareness, including the race against waste campaign and various litter initiatives; the enhanced waste management enforcement initiatives being taken by local authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement; the national waste prevention and market development programmes; the North-South scheme for the management of waste fridges and freezers; research and development in the Environmental Protection Agency; and contributions to international environment funds.

Prior to the introduction of the levy, an estimated 1.2 billion plastic bags were given away free by retailers. The levy has led to a dramatic reduction with a consequent positive environmental benefit. There has been a 95% reduction in the level of litter arising from plastic bags. Analysis of plastic bag levy receipts on a quarterly basis in respect of transactions up to 31 January 2005 indicates a consistent pattern in the flow of income from the levy. While no changes to its operation are proposed at present, my Department will continue to monitor its performance.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply and for the contribution of the plastic bag levy to the environment. It is a very good tax that is supported by everyone. While I accept and acknowledge the excellent targets of the funding the Minister of State outlined, perhaps he or his Department would consider teaching people how to recycle in their homes, schools or communities. One of the reasons people do not recycle as much as we would like is that they do not know how to. The Government could possibly introduce a school-based programme where people would go into classrooms and explain how to recycle and what recycling bins cost. Alternatively, such programmes could be based in shopping centres. This would be a good way of spending the fund and would be useful as it would educate and inform the public.

I take Deputy O'Dowd's comments on board and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is reviewing educational programmes relating to this area.

Will the Minister of State trace the progress of the graph of the numbers of plastic bags in the environment since the introduction of the plastic bag environmental levy? It would be useful to find out the year-by-year figure, if it exists.

I do not have the figure with me but I will make the figures available to Deputy Gilmore. It is interesting to see the attitude of people to the levy. When the possible introduction of the levy was first examined by the Government in 1999, it was found that 40% of people opposed it. In our last attitude survey, conducted in 2003, it appeared that 91% of people strongly supported the levy and regarded as it as an environmentally friendly measure.

The Minister of State said that some of the money goes into research. Does he agree with me that the two areas that are particularly difficult with regard to disposal are composting — and the prevalence of rodents that this practice attracts — and disposable nappies. Will he look at funding research into how to deal with the prevalence of rodents caused by composting and how to deal with disposable nappies, either through providing a different form of disposable nappy or by encouraging facilities to deal with the more traditional type of nappy?

I do not have the specifics relating to the Deputy's question available today but I assure him that we welcome valuable contributions and that I will keep his comments in mind.