Waste Reduction (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Waste Management Act 1996, the Litter Pollution Act 1997 and the Residential Tenancies Act 2004; and to provide for related matters.

Last night, the House had a long discussion on waste management legislation proposed by the Labour Party and the Green Party. While I welcome the Bill in question, which deals with tableware, it is a bit skimpy and more substantial meat will need to be put on its bones. The Bill I am introducing today on behalf of Sinn Féin is more comprehensive. At least last night's positive initiative prompted this Parliament to discuss waste, which is a serious issue for our society. We need to deal with waste because it is having a detrimental effect on the countryside and on streets, rivers and oceans. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions is having wide-reaching effects. We need to take a broader approach to waste management. It is simply not effective to concentrate on what goes into the household bin while neglecting the producer who is at the start of the chain in the first place.

The comprehensive Bill I am introducing seeks to deal with our ever-growing waste mountain. It proposes to amend various existing waste management statutes, including the Waste Management Act 1996. We are proposing that a deposit recycling scheme should be established, that a levy should be imposed on the industry and that a deposit should be applied when certain drinks containers are purchased. Under this proposal, when a drinks container is returned to the recycling unit, a credit which can be redeemed will be provided. The Minister focused heavily on the cost last night. We are not talking about a cost to the Exchequer here.

We are talking about a circular economy for waste, where the benefit comes back to the householder, industry and the environment. The objective is to encourage the return of such containers - glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminium cans. We see them discarded in hedgerows and streets throughout the country and our local councils spend millions each year cleaning up illegal dumping. In setting up a scheme we need to consider the current extensive costs for local authorities, money that would be better spent elsewhere. We also have to think of carbon emissions from the production of these waste containers and the horrific effects they have on the environment. By 2050 it is expected that the oceans and seas will contain the same weight in plastic as in fish, which is a horrific prospect. The scheme we propose will give an incentive to the individual to return containers, and where deposits are not redeemed, the money will go into a central fund to be used by county councils for environmental measures.

It is clear that the level of illegal dumping across the countryside needs to be dealt with. Accordingly, we propose an amendment to the Litter Pollution Act 1997 to increase fines for illegal commercial dumping and to place liability on those found guilty for the costs of the clean-up. We also provide for on-the-spot fines to be reviewed and we propose to amend the Residential Tenancies Act to place an obligation on landlords in respect of waste collection, as well as ensuring tenants have a legal means of disposing of waste. We provide for an increased protection for householders who use waste protection companies, having heard stories about the latter putting onerous charges on people under allegations of cross-contamination. That needs to be regulated.

Given the figures, the costs and the effects on the environment, we have to move away from our single-use, throwaway society and the mentality of the past. It is having a dreadful effect on our countryside, the environment and the economy, and if we do not do it, we will have a bleaker future. We cannot put this off any longer. The Minister, Deputy Naughten, talked about costs last night but Sinn Féin is not talking about costs. We are talking about measures that will create jobs, as they did in Sweden and Finland and many other countries which are 30 years ahead of us in this area. We have made good progress on recycling.

Sinn Féin is talking about job creation and not costs to the Exchequer. We need to model our proposals on what other countries have done and to build circular economies. The time for action is now and all of us, householders, elected representatives, local authority members, officials and industry, must play our part. This Bill is a means for doing that and will provide a more sustainable economy. I urge the Government not to oppose it as it is a positive measure for a more sustainable future.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.