Ireland is currently one of the top performing countries in the EU in terms of recycling and recovery. The EPA Progress Report Towards EU Targets 2017 showed that Ireland recycled 34% by weight of plastics in 2015, counting exclusively material that is recycled back into plastics. The EU target is 22.5% and Ireland is clearly well ahead of this target.
In January 2018, the European Commission published the European Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy. The strategy focuses on plastic production and use. It sets a goal of ensuring all plastic packaging will be recyclable by 2030.
Since then, I have written to the European Commissioner with responsibility for the environment to welcome the plastics strategy. I assured him Ireland fully embraced the ambitions of the new strategy. I asked the Commission to focus, in particular, on the most difficult non-recyclable plastics such as soft wrapping, film and single use items such as plastic straws. I am determined to make sure these products, if they come onto the market here or elsewhere in Europe will be recyclable or compostable and that they will not go into landfill sites.
I have also welcomed very recent proposals by the European Commission to tackle the problems posed by plastic single use items. I believe that working proactively with our European colleagues will achieve a greater environmental benefit.
Nevertheless, in line with the potential for European bans and restrictions, I am considering what financial incentives or penalties I can introduce , to tackle the problems caused by single-use plastic items in a way that is compatible with EU legislation.
I am looking to bring forward practical solutions along with my government colleagues responsible for marine environment and fisheries that will work in an Irish context.