We are considering the Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2022. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, and his officials. I have mentioned to some members already but now seek formal agreement that, should we not conclude in the session between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., we will resume at 3 p.m. to continue Committee Stage of the Bill. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2022: Committee Stage
Amendment No. 1 is in the name of Deputy Whitmore. Amendments Nos. 1, 13 to 19, inclusive, 26 to 29, inclusive, 37 and 67 are related and may be discussed together.
Is there a copy of the groupings?
I have a copy. We can get that for the Deputy.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, between lines 21 and 22, 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;”
I thank the Minister of State for coming in. The amendment is pretty self-explanatory. It relates to one of the key principles that I believe should be incorporated at the core of every piece of environmental legislation, or any legislation the Government is implementing at the moment. That is the principle of just transition. When we talk about just transition, we are talking about making sure everybody in our country has the ability to make the climate action changes required of them, that they are supported by the Government in doing so and that there is a fundamental addressing of inequalities in our society through these measures. It is about ensuring we use this opportunity to address any climate or environmental measures to also address inequalities by the actions Government takes, by subsidisation and by any funding or policy measures it introduces. This amendment brings the principle of just transition into the Bill.
The words "just transition" tend to be used as a catchphrase or for headlines and are bandied about by Members in government in the Dáil. What do we mean by "just transition"? There is no definition in any legislation in Ireland of "just transition" or of the responsibilities of the Government in ensuring a just transition. This definition is based on the one that was used in Scotland and that works in Scotland.
When we tried to get this definition into the climate Bill it was not accepted on the basis that it was too complex to do so. I say it would be too complex to make our climate adjustments without this "just transition" definition. This definition gives a tick list of all the things Government should consider when implementing this work.
One thing the Government can learn from recent weeks, specifically the turf issue, is that policies developed without thinking about who they will impact on and the inequalities they could create will be very difficult to get across the line. I ask that the Government incorporate the definition into this Bill to make sure that, when it develops the Bill and further policies aligned therewith, they are poverty-proofed and disability-proofed, that people who could be impacted in any way are involved in the discussions and that inequalities are addressed in that manner.
My amendments Nos. 15 and 17 have been included in this grouping although they are on slightly different topics.
Amendment No. 15 seeks to insert that where targets are being set that we would have, as a minimum targets set “in Construction, Food, Clothing and Textiles, Equipment, and other relevant sectors”. Leaving it that targets would be set on a sectoral basis without calling out in the legislation the priority sectors would miss an opportunity to recognise that the really big sectors in terms of their impact on the circular economy are the construction, food, textiles and equipment sectors and probably in that order. As construction accounts for more than half of our materials use and not far short of half of our waste generated, only 10% of which is recovered in any way for a use other than to go to landfill, we have a really serious problem in construction.
Food is a key sector for us. In terms of managing the material flows and getting fresh thinking, while the food sector has shown signs of change, and is probably ahead of the construction sector in that sense and there is a greater consciousness about the recovery of food waste, it still represents a massively important sector from our point of view. It is a similar situation for the other sectors that I have named and I could go into details but I do not want to hold up the committee.
Amendment No. 17 refers to lines 30 and 31 on page 10 and that is where the circular economy strategy is expected to set targets in respect of the repair and reuse of products. My amendment seeks to insert "improved maintenance and utilisation patterns of products and materials". For example, in the transport sector, because 95% of the time the vehicles we have purchased and own are idle, we need to move to sharing platforms that increase the rate of utilisation of these products which will, as a consequence, reduce the material consumption associated with travel. Similarly, it is possible to improve the maintenance of equipment and achieve much better performance from the materials that we use if maintenance is factored into the arenas where we set targets. This goes to a deeper problem because I believe the thinking from the Department around this Bill has very much come from the waste end of the pipe. One of the shifts that we need to see is to start to anticipate and redesign better processes than simply seeking to handle the waste stream in a different way. That is why sharing platforms or servicisation, as it is called in the literature, is a way to cut down on material use and achieve better outcomes from the materials that we do use. My amendments differ slightly from the topic that Deputy Whitmore discussed but have been grouped with these amendments.
Yes, the Bills Office has grouped all of these amendments together and I understand that there is a rationale for that. Does Deputy Whitmore want to comment on another of her amendments?
Does Deputy O'Rourke wish to comment on amendment No. 1 or some of the other amendments in this group?
In chronological order, I support the first amendment tabled by Deputy Whitmore. A number of other amendments share the theme and seek to insert the principles of just transition throughout the Bill, which is really important.
My amendment No. 13 seeks to confer responsibility such that "the circular economy strategy shall" rather than the "circular economy strategy may" and that this is done "Within 6 months". This is an issue that arose during the pre-legislative scrutiny, PLS. Amendment No. 13 seeks to tighten the timeline.
As for amendment No. 19, because various witnesses raised the need do so do during pre-legislative scrutiny, amendment No. 19 seeks to insert a provision on "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 co-operative and social enterprises". An important feature of this legislation is that it needs to be embraced by communities and people need to realise a step change in the way that we do things and my amendment highlights one such way to do that.
The group of amendments cover quite a few different themes.
My amendments Nos. 26 and 27 relate to the just transition principles and I will not discuss them again.
Amendment No. 29 talks about the committee and its membership that will be established by the Minister. There is not a huge amount of detail as to extent of the committee and its role. I ask the Minister to use the Public Appointments Service process for this committee and, indeed, any committee that the Minister seeks to establish for the purpose of advising on specific issues like this one. My amendment outlines some of the things that I believe should be taken into consideration such as gender, expertise and expresses the need for the process to be a public and transparent one.
Amendment No. 37 seeks to insert the provision that funds "will be ringfenced for the Circular Economy Fund". We need to make sure that all funds are ring-fenced and it is an issue that concerns the carbon tax. I mean that the discourse at the moment is that all of the carbon tax money goes towards climate initiatives but it is not. Therefore, we need to specify that the money that goes into this will be ring-fenced for the purpose of the circular economy fund.
Amendment No. 67 seeks to insert a definition for just transition. Now is the time to recognise that the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 or this Bill should have incorporated the just transition principles and we should use this opportunity to incorporate those principles into the Act now.
I will start with amendments Nos. 13 and 14. To my mind, these amendments have the same effect. I note that Deputy Bríd Smith is not here to propose her amendment but Deputy O'Rourke is here to propose amendment No. 13, which proposes that the targets should be mandatory or that there must be targets within the circular economy strategy, with which I agree.
I had planned to accept amendment No. 14 but as the Deputy is not here then I will flag that for amendment on Fourth Stage. Amendment No. 14 is stronger than amendment No. 13 as it seeks to insert the word "shall”. So the targets "shall" be there and, therefore, must be there immediately rather than waiting six months as stated in amendment No. 13.
I propose to put Deputy Bríd Smith's amendment No. 14 into effect on Report Stage.
In general, I appreciate and acknowledge the supportive approach members have taken to this Bill and all the ideas that have been expressed. In that spirit, I am planning to accept as many of the amendments as I can and to rewrite for the next Stage those I cannot accept.
Turning to amendment No. 15, in the name of Deputy Bruton, I understand the intention in specifying sectors with particular reference to the circular economy. I listened to the Deputy's contribution in this regard and I wish to put this amendment into effect, but first I wish to consult with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel regarding the exact wording. Subject to that advice, I will reintroduce this amendment on Report Stage.
Moving to amendment No. 17, also in the name of Deputy Bruton, this makes a key contribution to the provisions of the Bill in respect of “improved maintenance and utilisation patterns of products and materials”. The Deputy makes a good case. Again, I want to get the wording right and I will be consulting with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in this regard. Therefore, I am not going to accept the amendment today, but I commit to reintroducing it on Report Stage, once consultation with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel has been completed.
I note the intention of amendment No. 16, in the name of Deputy Devlin. It refers to “reductions in plastic single-use items according to the waste hierarchy within EU Waste Directive 2008/98 and Commission Implementation Regulation (EU) 2020/2151 Single Use plastic Directive”. This legislation, however, is concerned with moving away from single use across all areas and not just plastic. Additionally, reductions in single-use plastics specifically are being adequately dealt with under the single-use plastics directive at an EU level. The directive came into force last July and banned ten of the most common single-use plastic items that wash up on beaches. Therefore, I am not planning to accept this amendment.
Amendments Nos. 1 and 18 are in the name of Deputy Whitmore, and I thank her for her contributions. As she pointed out, the definition of a “just transition” was discussed in the debate on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021. Many definitions were proposed. One came from the Minister and another from Deputy Whitmore or other Deputies. Agreement was not reached on the wording of a definition, so it was decided there would be no definition of “just transition”. Consequently, I am loath to put such a definition into this legislation and then have it affect the other legislation without consulting first with the drafters of that Act. Later, however, I intend to accept amendment No. 11, which Deputy Whitmore has also submitted, that will place an obligation on the Minister to consider the national disability inclusion strategy and the roadmap for social inclusion when drafting the circular economy strategy. This will give effect to some of the intentions behind Deputy Whitmore’s amendments. Therefore, I will not be accepting amendments Nos. 1 and 18.
Amendment No. 19, in the names of Deputies O'Rourke and Cronin, relates to “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 co-operative and social enterprises such as Men’s Sheds”. These are detailed operational elements concerning how civic amenity sites will function in each local authority area. In fact, waste management planning relating to infrastructural provision, such as civic amenity sites, is the responsibility of local authorities under Part 2 of the Waste Management Act 1996. The waste action plan for a circular economy, launched by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, in September 2020, contains a commitment to "formalise the role of civic amenity sites and [to] agree a standard list of waste streams to be accepted at [such] sites". The regional waste management planning offices, with support from the Department, have recently published a national review of civic amenity sites. This review is available online. Discussions have commenced with the local authority sector on the implementation of the report's recommendations and these will allow civic amenity sites to play a greater role in our transition to a more circular economy through measures such as co-ordinated education and awareness programmes, greater use of reuse schemes, standardising a list of waste streams accepted at such sites and collective approaches to extended producer responsibility schemes. That will assist in continuing to reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfills. Considering those factors, I am not proposing to accept this amendment.
Amendments Nos. 26 to 29, inclusive, are in the name of Deputy Whitmore. I am sympathetic to the intentions behind these amendments. The Deputy raised some key points on Second Stage and that is why I will accept amendment No. 11 later. Regarding amendment No. 28, however, I do not believe it is necessary to specify that protection of the environment includes protection of biodiversity. Biodiversity protection is already provided for in the current draft of this section, and there is no question about that. I cannot see how “environment” could not include “biodiversity”. By separating those terms, and referring to “environment” and “biodiversity” as if they were different things, I would worry that at other points in legislation where “environment” is referred to, that could be then understood as not including “biodiversity”. I hope this point is clear. Therefore, I am not accepting amendment No. 28.
This is also the case in respect of amendment No. 27. I believe the current wording already allows support for these kinds of initiatives. I am also not going to accept amendment No. 26, but I am sympathetic to its intention. I would like to take advice regarding whether the current wording might narrow the scope of what is currently a broadly-drafted provision. My concern is that while I would support providing assistance to “communities which are disadvantaged and marginalised”, I would also like to ensure that the amendment does not limit support under the provision for all communities. I would also like to take advice on how to define “marginalised” and “disadvantaged” communities and whether this is necessary. Based on the outcome of those discussions, I may reintroduce the amendment on Report Stage. I am also not accepting amendment No. 29 because I believe it is disproportionate in the circumstances and could have the unintended consequence of delaying the establishment of a committee under this section. The Minister does not even need to form a committee.
Regarding amendment No. 37, I have been advised that the legislation already provides that the moneys generated from the environmental levies will be paid into the circular economy fund and will be used for those purposes. Therefore, this legislation specifically ring-fences all the money collected for those purposes, and those purposes are specified. What this amendment seeks to achieve is already contained in this legislation. Section 8(7) of the Bill states that “in accordance with, [regulations under] section 11(1)", which relate to the environmental levies, "there shall be paid into the Circular Economy Fund the amounts specified in those regulations”. Section 12(3)(n) of the Bill provides that the regulations under section 11(1) may provide for “the payment into the Circular Economy Fund [...] of amounts received by [the collection authority] [...] on account of the levy (subject to the deduction [...] [of] expenses incurred [in the] [...] collection the levy)". The drafting of these sections is based on the drafting of the provisions which provided for the environment fund. In the previous legislation, that environment fund ring-fenced the proceeds of the plastic bag and landfill levies. Those levies have operated effectively since 2002. Therefore, we have 20 years of experience of seeing a ring-fenced fund in operation, and this will be a continuation of that. Therefore, I am satisfied that the intention behind this amendment is already provided for in the Bill and therefore I am not accepting amendment No. 37.
Turning to amendment No. 67, this inserts a definition of "just transition" into the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. Section 4(8)(k) of that Act provides that the Government must have regard to "the requirement for a just transition to a climate neutral economy which endeavours, in so far as is practicable, to maximise employment opportunities, and support persons and communities that may be negatively affected by the transition". That Act does not define the term "just transition" and I do not believe it is appropriate to introduce that definition into the Act under the auspices of this legislation, so I am not accepting this amendment.
- Cronin, Réada.
- O'Rourke, Darren.
- Whitmore, Jennifer.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Devlin, Cormac.
- Farrell, Alan.
- Leddin, Brian.
- O'Sullivan, Christopher.
- Smyth, Ossian.
Amendment No. 2 is in the name of Deputy Bríd Smith but I do not think she is present.
Is it grouped with other amendments?
Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, are grouped and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 7, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:
“(a) the supply chain and processes of production and distribution of products and services are redesigned in order to minimise the environmental damage,”.
This is a fairly important point. The way the Minister is defining "circular economy" is quite limited. It is about materials being kept in use, the maximum value being extracted from them and their recovery at the end of their useful life. It omits both the choice of the right materials in the first place and the importance of design in ensuring all these principles are observed. The failure to look right back to the design point in the supply chain is going to mean we fall short. I contend one of the weaknesses in the way this Bill was conceived is it is very much taking a limited view of the materials and their ending up in waste, whereas I believe the biggest delivery for the circular economy will be in rethinking design. For example, I have mentioned already the case of motor cars where if you can redesign the thinking to sell travel as a service instead of cars as a product to be kept idle in a driveway, then you can dramatically change the material use and the whole conception of how the supply chain should work and its capacity to minimise environmental damage. It is therefore important we create the signal that we expect producers to go back to first principles and look afresh at the way they designed their sector and the materials it uses, as well as the more limited objective of keeping materials in use for as long as possible, maximising their extraction of value and recovering them. It is a slightly wider definition but when the Minister comes to look at individual sectors and devise strategies for individual sectors he will appreciate the value of forcing the issue of design into the thinking as the first principle that should be addressed in any sectoral approach. That is the thinking behind my amendment.
Deputy Bríd Smith has tabled another amendment but it is weaker than mine because mine forces producers to think about the correct selection of materials. Often, if the wrong material is being used, if it is one that damages biodiversity or has other environmental downsides to it, then simply looking at the entire supply chain will not be enough. If you look at the entire supply chain from design onwards and at potential environmental damage at any point in that, you will get a broader concept. I suggest it is less divisive looking at even the climate challenge in this context where we know there is an awful lot of division in Ireland, especially in rural areas, about climate being an imposition. If you look at redesigning whole sectors for a bright and fulfilling future, you get a much better political approach, as well as being more correct in the theoretical approach as well. I leave it at that.
Do Deputies O'Rourke, Cronin and Whitmore wish to speak to amendment No. 4?
It is appropriate amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, are grouped because they are variations on the same theme, namely, the definition of circular economy. Our suggestion is to include a reference on page 7, line 21, to every stage of the supply chain being adapted. It strengthens the definition to explicitly state it is at "every stage". In that way, it better reflects the necessary scope of the circular economy.
We are considering amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, which are concerned with changing the definition of the circular economy. It is absolutely critical we get this right because the circular economy is mentioned all the way through the Bill so any kind of change that introduces an ambiguity or has a loophole or flaw may weaken other sections. I reviewed the report that came from the committee on the definition of the circular economy and considered it carefully. The definition of "circular economy" in the published Bill was drafted in consultation with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and with the Attorney General. His view was the phrase that is in the legislation, namely, "an economic model and the policies and practices which give effect to that model" includes all the items referenced in the amendments, including things like the supply chain, distribution, the process of production and so on through the words "policies and practices".
The definition we put in the Bill is based on the most common internationally used and readily understood definition of the circular economy and is combined with references to resource consumption and environmental harm. Those were put in to reflect the recommendations of the committee. My fear is that introducing this will bring in ambiguity and weaken other sections. The view of the Department is that references to "supply chain", "stage of the supply chain", "processes of production" and so on did not meaningfully expand the scope of the definition, which was already broad, but resulted in a more complex and potentially ambiguous wording. To give a simple example of the Department's concern here, does the haulage of materials from point A to point B constitute a stage of the supply chain, a process of distribution or neither? Would the proposed amendments suggest that absent a redesign of such journeys, the circular economy had not been achieved? These are the concerns of those I have spoken to and we need to be very careful about redefining the circular economy. On that basis I am not accepting amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive.
I do not agree with the Minister of State but I reserve the opportunity to submit an amendment on Report Stage. The Minister of State needs to reflect on whether, if the sole objective of "policies and practices" is keeping materials in use and extracting the most value from them, this will not embrace the wrong choice of materials in the first place. It is important a circular economy looks at the materials chosen in the first place and does not take it as given that concrete is the way we build and once we keep the materials used in sector for as long as possible we have fulfilled circularity. Equally, by not referencing design, which is the concept of the service and what we are trying to do ahead of the materials chosen, we lose an element of this. Construction, travel and food or nourishment are the three big sectors.
In terms of construction and travel, the design concepts that underpin the way the market works are crucial. For example, we now assume that construction has to have space for parking a lot of vehicles that are owned. If we moved to thinking differently about how vehicles are used, we would not have so much underground parking space. Similarly, if we embraced timber as opposed to concrete, a policy that has been embraced far more in Scotland than here, we would have a different profile of materials used in the sector. I ask the Minister of State to reflect on it. This is the sort of thing the Attorney General likes to have. Once there are principles and policies, he is happy and content. I do not think he has given the time to look at what it is the Minister of State is trying to achieve here. I ask that the Minister of State goes back and asks the Attorney General to reflect again on some of the quirks of the sectors and the way the Government is trying achieve change in them.
I agree that design is the key point when you want to achieve circularity. It is very difficult to fix problems after a product has not been designed in a way to make it repairable or durable. Design is critical, which is why the EU is coming up with a second eco-design directive - probably in the next couple of months.
The Deputy referred to the choice of materials being critical. On both of those issues, I have studied the Bill and believe it does provide for specifying choice of materials and providing for design decisions. I will continue to discuss with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the Attorney General. The Deputy can reintroduce the amendment on Report Stage and I will engage properly on it.
We could look at adding another subsection (a) that explicitly looks at design and choice of materials.
We can discuss that further.
Does Deputy Bruton wish to press the amendment?
I will withdraw it.
Does Deputy O'Rourke wish to press amendment No. 4?
I will withdraw it with a view to reintroducing it at a later stage. I echo some of the points made by Deputy Bruton. There is a pattern in these amendments and I would appreciate it if the Minister of State would take on board some of the contributions here. There is an opportunity for agreement at a later Stage.
I agree with that.
I will wait and see what the outcomes of those discussions are.
Amendment No. 5 is in the name of Deputy Bríd Smith. I have received word that she is unwell, is unable to attend today and sends her apologies.
On a point of order, given that we have to wait eight minutes every time a vote is called, it does seem to be a very poor use of our time.
It is provided for in Standing Orders unless a substitute is nominated by Deputy Smith.
Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 32 to 36, inclusive, are related and will be taken together.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 9, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:
"(c) contains more than 10 per cent plastic,".
At the outset, I am pleased that the Minister of State is engaging with the amendments and is willing to accept some of them, although my first one fell at the first hurdle. Let us hope there are other opportunities for inclusion in the Bill. In terms of utilising our time, it would also be helpful to know which ones the Minister of State is going to accept if this is feasible because it will help us have a debate around the ones that are not going to be accepted about why they should be included. This amendment is self-explanatory. While I hear what the Minister of State said about my first amendment, this is similar but I do not propose to defer to the EU single-use plastic strategy on this. We must be realistic in our outlook regarding what might materialise in terms of being manufactured. We could be walking ourselves into a bigger problem down the line irrespective of what legislation comes from the EU. This is a sensible amendment and I ask the Minister of State to consider it.
Does Deputy O'Rourke wish to come in on that one? I will go chronologically and ask Deputy Bruton to speak to amendment No. 7.
They are grouped together.
Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 32 to 36, inclusive, are grouped.
I want to speak to amendment No. 33, which is in my name.
Amendment No. 7 is in the name of Deputy Bruton so I was going to go in that order.
That is no problem.
This amendment concerns packaging the Minister of State is proposing to take the authority to restrict. It seems unduly restrictive to insist that only food packaging be scrutinised and not packaging for other products. I know things like medical products may have their own legislation that governs the way they are packaged and we might not want to stray into territory where medical regulatory issues have already been worked through but in respect of other products, the principles of the Bill and the circularity principles that should underpin should apply equally. This is why I suggested that we broaden the definition here in order that the Minister of State can look at single-use packaging that is not for food products. This may already be caught but we hear people talking about the use of very small shampoo bottles in hotels. A lot of people feel this is unnecessary and many of these bottles are thrown away half used anyhow so it is not a very good strategy. Confining it to food packaging seems unduly restrictive.
I agree with Deputy Bruton. I am sure it is unlikely to be the intention of the Minister of State to exclude sectors rather than to bring in as many of them as possible but from my reading of it, this line seems to exclude. I am not 100% sure if it is captured elsewhere in the section. I do not believe it is. I think something along the lines of what Deputy Bruton said, namely, being as inclusive as possible, would be helpful so I support the amendment on that basis.
I will speak to amendment No. 33 in my name and that of Deputy Cronin. It concerns materials that present substantial difficulty when it comes to recycling where a suitable alternative exists. It aims to address what could be an unintended consequence of the production of poor-quality or flimsy products and to introduce a level of scrutiny in respect of that.
This grouping proposes to give the Minister wider powers that he is currently confining to single-use packaging with the food sector and plastic bags. Again, it seems he is unduly narrowing the scope of the environmental levy. I know there will be issues later as to how he sets that levy. There are concerns that he should ensure the levy looks at the whole-of-life impact of the type of material being used but that will probably come up later when we reach the section.
It is just here to give a somewhat wider scope.
Amendments Nos. 34 to 36, inclusive, are in Deputy Devlin's name. Does he want to speak to those?
Basically, I am in agreement with Deputy Bruton regarding the compilation of many of these products and the materials used. I will speak to the three amendments together. They are from the same area of the Bill on page 16, just on different lines. Ultimately, this is about stitching in a kind of a polluter pays principle. My big concern is potentially seeing manufactured products such as single-use cups that are not actually reusable in the long term or are keepable by the consumer. We are walking ourselves into a bigger problem here. We have to be cautious, particularly in respect of amendment No. 35. The Bill currently provides for a sum of not “less than €0.20 or more than €1.00”. I am a little bit dubious about whether we should be so prescriptive in primary legislation. However, that said, we should perhaps put in what is in the amendment, which is “less than €.01 or more than €1.00, which would be determined by the total percentage of plastic content within the material of the single-use item.” We have to be conscious that manufacturers may look to substitute for alternative goods, which in the long run is actually not environmentally good, and was said earlier, may have unintended consequences. I ask the Minister of State to consider those amendments, along with amendments Nos. 34 and 36.
I appreciate having engaged with the Minister of State on Second Stage about what the intentions are. However, I can see drawbacks in this particular proposal. The single-use plastic directive, when it comes to cups, is fairly clear. We know that in due course, all plastic contained within disposable cups will be removed and then be replaced with the ones that are available here in the Oireachtas and are fully recyclable and compostable and, indeed, the lid is also recyclable.
What I want to achieve in the passage of this particular Bill is twofold. First, I want to reduce the number of single-use items that are entering the market in the first instance, and that disincentivise people from using keep cups like Deputy Burton has in front of him. I forgot mine today. In addition, I want to ensure the replacements of the single-use paper cup do not actually come with more embedded carbon than the manufacturing process for this cup. I am not convinced that the good intentions contained within the Bill as drafted capture that fully. The reason I say that is because the question is whether, like the plastic bag levy in the past, this will incentivise people to change their use. To a certain extent, the answer is "Yes" However, on the question of whether it will fully disincentivise people to change the manner in which they buy a cup of coffee, tea, latte or whatever it might be, I think the answer is “No”. Then we are going back to the single-use plastic directive to protect us from unnecessary concentrations of plastic within those cups, that is, the film, the coating and all that sort of stuff, which will be excluded again. An example would be this cup I have to hand, which contains none of those things. The difficulty I have is that hardened plastic cups, for instance, which are available on the market, cost less to produce than this cup. The coffee companies, the Starbucks and Insomnias of the world, will simply replace their paper cups with plastic. I do not think that makes sense. Applying a levy to it should, in fact, be inverted. What if the State were to mandate that those retailers discount the price of a cup of coffee, tea or latte, if a person presents a reusable cup? Many of them already do. They are doing it voluntarily and are doing it more than by 20 cent. They are actually doing it to the tune of 30 cent. The sector already recognises that there are people whom they want to incentivise to use to continue to use their keep cup. This is a general remark on the section, rather than on the individual amendments. That would be my take on it.
The other side of it is the argument that biodegradable cups are available in the market and people do not put them into their brown bin or compost heap or whatever it might be. Again, is it better that a person uses a biodegradable or fully recyclable cup than a heavy plastic cup with a rubber ring around it, which most of them have in order to reduce the conductivity of the plastic and reduce the heat of the cup in the person’s hand? Is it better, from an embedded carbon perspective, that we utilise these paper cups, which are 100% recyclable? Obviously the lid is a separate issue, but they are available in recyclable and biodegradable forms as well. I totally understand where the Minister of State is coming from in his ambition to try to change consumer behaviour but there are other ways of doing it that I believe would be more effective. That is why the general principles of the levy on anything other than a cup that contains plastic is wrong. We will be far better placed as an Oireachtas and a Government to focus in on what would this incentivise. Would it disincentivise people from using unsustainable products in the market, as we have referred to over the course of this debate this morning? I might add that I say all this very respectfully and do not want to force my view on anyone. However, I believe that if we want to change behaviour, we need to incentivise that change while also keeping an eye on the credentials of the product we are incentivising people to use instead of the single-use plastic cup.
I was going to start my contribution by asking what the purpose of the levy is. Is it to generate income? Of course the Minister of State was going to say no, the ambition of the idea is to change behaviour. From a business management perspective and a psychological perspective, one can identify other means of disincentivising people from making bad choices or, often, default choices. We should be incentivising the sector to disincentivise the use of unsustainable materials in their products, as Deputy Bruton has referred to in prior amendments.
I could go on, but I think my point is made. I would ask the Minister of State to perhaps reflect upon those particular remarks in our ambition to disincentivise unsustainable single-use products.
To start with Deputy Devlin’s request that the amendments be sent to the clerk with a list of which amendments I am planning to take, I have done that. Of course, I might be persuaded otherwise, but there is a list up there.
I will address some of Deputy Farrell's comments for a minute. When we are comparing the sustainability of a plastic cup and a paper cup, for example, we are thinking about how many times it is used. Clearly, a plastic cup that is used once is less sustainable than one that is used 100 times. For example, as the Deputy pointed out, we have these very flimsy plastic cups in front of us, and one has to decide then what constitutes a reusable container. This same challenge faced the plastic bag levy in regard to thin plastic bags and what constitutes long-lasting bags and bags for life. That was defined in the regulations, with various exemptions for putting in meat or fish and so on. However, they managed it and it works in practice, and I think we can do the same thing. It is a fair question about materials, and I suppose it relates to Deputy Bruton’s earlier question about sustainable materials. On my reading of the Bill and the advice that I have, I can prescribe various materials to be in or out for use.
The Deputy asked what the goal was. The goal is not to raise revenue. It is different from a tax, where the goal is usually to raise revenue. The goal of this levy is to change behaviour. The difference between this levy and a tax is that the money is going into a ring-fenced fund to be used to promote the circular economy. If this levy works, we will not collect any of it because we will have converted people. That is not an unrealistic prospect. The plan is to start by levying a fee on a disposable cup and then to ban such cups altogether. Once they are banned, there is no levy to be collected. It is a short-term measure to change behaviour. That is the focus of what we are doing. I am happy to listen to anything that the Deputy has to say or any suggestion he has on this matter, though.
Turning to amendments Nos. 6 and 36, this is a much broader issue than just plastic. The purpose of the levy is to influence people's behaviour away from single usage, not just of plastic items, but of anything that is used once. If someone used a mug made out of crockery and then threw it away, it would not make sense. Some 200 million paper cups are ending up in landfill or incineration. That is crazy and is similar to when we used to use a large number of plastic bags. We reduced that usage by more than 90%. When the plastic bag levy was introduced, paper cups were not a feature. They are a recent innovation. Go back a few years more and plastic bags did not exist either. They are things that arrived and were taken for granted, with millions being used every day before they all end up as waste, either incinerated or put into landfill.
In the UK, less than 5% of single-use cups are recycled or composted. Generally, people use takeaway cups and throw them into bins, where they get mixed up with other items. They also tend to have some coffee at the bottom, which contaminates other waste. The likelihood of those cups being composted or recycled is small, even where they are recyclable products. They also end up as litter on the side of the road. Our constituents spend a great deal of time collecting them and picking them up. It is a Sisyphean task. There is also effectively zero recycling of lids. They are single-use plastics that do not rot and last a long time.
Our objective is to reduce the consumption of all types of disposable cup 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 continuous and unnecessary use of resources that are required for the production and disposal of single-use items. Regardless of whether these items are made of paper, plastic or any other material, they go through this entire production process just to be used once and have a few minutes of life.
For a cup to be recycled or composted, it must be disposed of correctly. If not disposed of correctly, it will end up in landfill. Biodegradable cups are better than a plastic alternative strictly in material terms, but they do not achieve the objective of preventing litter and waste or minimising the use of resources. In fact, they may be counterproductive because the consumer believes that he or she is making an environmentally responsible choice by drinking out of compostable cups. Consequently, consumers do not change their behaviour and continue to use single-use items.
The Bill would allow for exemptions from the levy for different categories of single-use items, including recyclable or compostable cups. However, the efficacy or success of a levy or ban is influenced by the exemptions to that ban or levy. If the exemptions allow for an easy substitution or are too broad, there will be no behavioural change. I point again to our experience with plastic bags. I intend to provide for some limited exemptions to the levy in the regulations. These will be set out in the draft regulations and made available for consultation. I do not intend to exempt recyclable or compostable cups. The public consultation process will take place in advance of the introduction of the new levies. The levy on single-use disposable cups will be the first of the levies, but for any levy that is introduced, there will have to be a public consultation process for the public and industry beforehand. That is where the exemptions and details will get worked out. I cannot guess in advance. I have spoken to cafés and we have undertaken some consultation, but until we have the full consultation process, I cannot predict what the outcome will be.
I will not be accepting amendment No. 35. The level at which the levy is set is key. The amendment proposes that it could be as low as 1 cent. The levy must be set high enough to induce behavioural change and be sufficient to disincentivise consumption. I have received a great deal of correspondence from the public and café owners saying that they believed that 20 cent was not enough. They based this on their experience of what made someone choose item A over item B. I was surprised because I had believed that 20 cent was high, but that is the feedback that I have received so far. If the levy's level is not high enough, change will not be effected. We saw this with the plastic bag levy in 2006. By that time, the levy had been in place for five years at a time of rapid economic growth. We then began to see data showing that the sustained reductions in consumption and litter pollution were starting to reverse. In July 2007, the levy was increased from 15 cent to 22 cent. There was an immediate drop in consumption.
Other jurisdictions around the world have introduced very low levies. For example, Lithuania and Latvia introduced plastic bag levies like ours but set theirs at 1 cent and 2 cent, respectively. The data from those countries showed that there was little reduction in consumption. These empirical data show that setting the levy too low means that you do not succeed.
Regarding amendments Nos. 32 and 33, difficult-to-recycle materials are a challenge to a circular economy, but levying individual materials rather than products is unlikely to be effective in combating this. Often, the problem is where there is a combination of materials in one product. If you buy a sandwich, its container has cardboard but also plastic because producers want to give you a window through which to see. It is difficult to recycle that composite product. It is not the plastic or the paper that is the problem, but the fact that they are glued together into a single item. Consumers know that, when purchasing a specific type of single-use item like a disposable cup, they cannot be expected to foresee its material composition. In such circumstances, they could incur the levy in a manner that would be random and arbitrary. For example, if a sandwich container incurs different levy rates depending on which materials or composites it is made of, we may end up with an arbitrary levy that cannot be understood by the public. That could undermine public acceptance of and confidence in the measure.
We should keep in mind the extended producer responsibility, EPR, model. Members of the committee are familiar with it. When someone buys electronic equipment like a toaster or washing machine, he or she pays this fee, which is then used to guarantee that the salesperson will take back the old product. I am mentioning this because it is an effective means of addressing the challenge of difficult-to-recycle materials. In packaging, the application of eco-modulated fees places a greater financial burden on producers that place difficult-to-recycle materials on the market. In other words, they will only get the same money back for recycling that product even when it is a difficult-to-recycle product. Eco-modulated fees in respect of plastic packaging are being levied through the Repak EPR scheme this year for the first time. Fees for other packaging materials are being reconfigured according to recycling performance from 2023. The EPR model provides a better means of achieving the purpose of these amendments. I will be considering how successful the Repak EPR scheme is this year. Therefore, I will not be accepting amendments Nos. 32 and 33.
Amendment No. 34 reads:
In page 16, line 23, after “available” to insert the following:
“and if the levels of material wastage of the single-use item do not adhere to the principles as outlined in EU Waste Directive 2008/98 regarding lifecycle justification and the best overall environmental outcome in regard to achieving the lowest carbon dioxide emissions and freshwater consumption”.
This is not necessary because section 11(2) already requires that the level of material wastage associated with a given single-use item or class of items must be considered by the Minister.
Section 11(3) requires that the Minister must satisfy himself or herself that any alternatives to that item are suitable before making regulations to impose a levy on that item. If there is a single-use item or class of items which results in the lowest level of material wastage over its life cycle, then no alternatives would be suitable for the purposes of the legislation.
Amendment No. 7 provides that "or other products" be inserted after "food". This broadens the scope of the Bill and I look favourably on it. If I can expand it, I will. It is a significant expansion of the application of the levy and I want to take advice on it because of that. In that context, I ask Deputy Bruton to withdraw the amendment at this stage and if there are no legal impediments, I will introduce it on Report Stage.
I am happy to withdraw amendment No. 7 but have a question on something the Minister of State said. He said that the Minister can take materials out of the waste stream. He rightly cited these combination materials, referred to as PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are the plastic coatings on what look like recyclable products but does the Minister really have that power? The Minister of State said that the Minister does have that power but there is a question as to whether the Minister can say that he or she will not allow PFAS or other materials to enter the waste stream. I understand that 35% of plastics that are put into the green bin are not recyclable. That is low-hanging fruit and if we could get some of that 35% out by just issuing regulations then everyone would be fairly happy. However, I do not get the impression that the Minister can do that.
We will be discussing PFAS in more detail later because there are specific amendments on that issue. Deputy Bruton is correct in saying that there are multiple types of plastic. There are seven named classes of plastic, each with a different numbered symbol and the more types there are, the harder it is to recycle. It has been proposed that we should reduce the number of plastic types that can be used for packaging. One thing that we can do is ban products. Section 14 allows for the banning of products, which is what I intend to do later on but that does depend on being compliant with EU law. Banning a product obviously requires notification to the EU and making sure that we are not interfering with the Single Market. The banning of PFAS, plastics and so on may be done more effectively through an EU-wide decision. That said, I do have the power under section 14 to impose a ban but I am required to make a notification. Does that make sense?
I am not accepting amendment No. 36 from Deputy Devlin. It was grouped with amendment No. 6 on the basis that it is a broader issue than just plastic. We are trying to avoid single-use items, no matter what material they are made from. I am not tying it down to a particular material type or limiting the restriction or the attempt to persuade people away from single-use, disposable items to items that contain plastic alone.
Deputy Devlin, are you pressing amendment No. 6?
No, but I might reintroduce it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 9, line 17, after “food” to insert “or other products”.
Amendments Nos. 8 to 12, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 10, line 1, after “strategy”)” to insert “and anaerobic digestion shall form part of said strategy,”.
I find it very difficult to understand why there is no mention of anaerobic digestion or an anaerobic digestion strategy in this Bill. Furthermore, there is no mention of agriculture, although the word "farm" does appear in references to the farm to fork strategy. This is surprising because agriculture is an industry that could really lead the way in terms of extending the use of certain products. Section 7 refers to the circular economy strategy and waste action plan and provides that the Minister must have regard to that strategy. Within that, there is mention of anaerobic digestion but it only gets the odd reference here and there. This amendment provides for the inclusion of a references to anaerobic digestion and an anaerobic digestion strategy because Ireland lacks any strategy at all when it comes to anaerobic digestion.
Anaerobic digestion could play an important role in reducing agricultural emissions, which I acknowledge is not the main concern of this Bill, but it also has a strong role to play in the context of the circular economy. The benefits of anaerobic digestion very much speak to the circular economy. It can extend many products that would otherwise just go into the waste stream or into landfill. I have regularly referenced the example of a relatively small anaerobic digester in Timoleague in west Cork which operates like a co-operative movement. It serves a small geographical region. Farmers and some industries in the region feed this anaerobic digester. It is important to say that they do not feed it with products that are specifically grown for anaerobic digestion but with waste products. A local piggery, a local chicken farm and a local distillery all have waste products that would otherwise go to waste which are fed into the digester to produce energy. Indeed, enough energy is produced to generate electricity for a village of approximately 1,000 people, which cannot be dismissed.
There is potentially an enormous role for anaerobic digestion here and what we really need is a national anaerobic digestion strategy. Perhaps that does not form part of this Bill but I would ask the Minister of State to make sure that such a strategy is at least referred to in this Bill. The Bill refers to single-use plastic, CCTV and many other aspects of the circular economy. Anaerobic digestion is an aspect of the circular economy that, at the very least, needs to be referred to in this legislation, especially as it is referred to in the waste action plan for a circular economy. It has to form part of our circular economy strategy and if we do not include it, that will be a missed opportunity. Many other countries in Europe, including the UK, have an anaerobic digestion strategy and it serves them very well. Anaerobic digestion can play two very important roles in agriculture. It can reduce agricultural emissions, thus helping to decarbonise agriculture and it can also extend the life of certain products before they go to waste, which is exactly what the circular economy is all about. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State's view on that.
I support Deputy O'Sullivan's amendment. It was around 18 months ago that we engaged in pre-legislative scrutiny of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill. This committee spent a considerable period of time enhancing and improving that Bill and all of us are very proud of that legislation.
Within the debate that occurred, we had a brief discussion about anaerobic digestion. I recall distinctly the conversation as to its inclusion in the strategy, and also for further information for the Oireachtas to determine the appropriateness of and the number of such facilities that would constitute a maximum number. If one goes beyond that maximum number then one is generating products for the purposes of keeping the anaerobic digestion going, as opposed to disposing of non-disposable by-products. I am none the wiser at this stage some months later, apart from some independent research. It would be helpful if the Minister of State could give us his view on this particular suggestion from Deputy O'Sullivan. It is a worthy one, as it was worthy 18 months ago.
I mentioned some of the by-products, including the gas to produce energy to produce electricity to power homes. The other by-product is the very low emissions, which goes back to agriculture and goes back into the land. There is a circular economy.
On amendment No. 9, one of the things missing from the Bill is the placing of obligations on other Ministers to take appropriate initiatives to promote the circular economy in the sectors where they have responsibility. Amendment No. 9 advocates that we should start to encourage circular compacts within sectors whereby the sectors come together to look at issues like design and material choice, and the other things we have talked about, and that Ministers in those sectors should be actively engaged in this.
Equally, and this must be music to the Minister of State's ears given the principles of circularity in public procurement, I recently had a reply to a parliamentary question from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, in which they record 17% of procurement has been green procurement. It seems we have a long way to go to get to the adoption. Public procurement in Ireland needs some legislative prods to get it to change its pattern. They tend to wait until some constituent organisation is looking for a procurement with a green tinge to it. Legislators then respond by producing a framework that embraces this. We need to get a bit more top-down instead of waiting for a very reactive procurement policy, which I believe is there at the moment. The emphasis is on short-term value rather than lifetime cost and lifetime impact is not well developed in the public procurement sector. Perhaps this Bill is an opportunity for the Minister of State, Deputy Smyth, to put a little bit of lead in his pencil when he goes across the road to his other responsibilities in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I will not go beyond that, but I am tempted to recall how the embassy in France was procured by the Irish State.
Come on, please tell us.
It was the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time. The Minister for Finance fell sick and the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time was asked to deputise as Minister for Finance. He submitted a request from the Department of Foreign Affairs and then walked across to the Department of Finance and signed "approved". Perhaps the Minister of State will have the opportunity to do something similar here.
I thank Deputy Bruton for that anecdote.
Amendment No. 10 relates to the strategy and the requirements for consultation on that strategy to make sure that it is poverty and disability proofed. Previously, it became stark when there was the policy for two-for-one meals, on which there was an announcement last year or 18 months ago. There was a steering committee of perhaps 40 different organisations. There was not a single organisation there representing people who are at risk of poverty. There was a representative for disability groups, but it was not a grassroots organisation. I raised this with the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications at the time. I believed it was a huge gap. As a result, those groups had not actually been consulted. When one is talking about two-for-one meals, people who are at risk of poverty rely on those to a great degree and their concerns should be taken into account with any such policies. The amendment seeks to ensure that the right groups are being consulted when the strategy is being developed and also in the context of bringing in the principles of just transition and climate justice.
Does the Deputy wish to speak to amendment No. 11 also?
I understand from the Minister of State that he will accept this amendment. I welcome that. Again, if we do not name check these things in legislation, sometimes they do not feature in consideration. It is important, if there is a list of strategies that need to be consulted, that we make sure it is a cohesive list and we do not leave anyone out. What is currently in the draft Bill does leave out major components. I welcome that the Minister of State is taking those into consideration and will incorporate them.
On amendment No. 12, I believe that the Minister of State has already signalled he is accepting Deputy Whitmore's amendment. In an earlier amendment I believe he gave that indication. I presume that the Minister of State will be accepting amendment No. 11, so my amendment No. 12 would fall.
Amendment No. 8 seeks to insert “and anaerobic digestion shall form part of said strategy,”. Yes, the bioeconomy is a really important part of the circular economy. Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out that the cost of fertiliser has tripled. As we all know, the cost of electricity and gas has gone up also. One can see that this type of economy is now essential and something that we need to do. It is undeveloped in Ireland compared to other countries. When we consider that anaerobic digestion has been going on for many years in Germany, for example, we really have a great opportunity. Rather than being hard on ourselves for the past, we can say that for the future we do have a great opportunity here.
It is not just about anaerobic digestion; it is also aerobic digestion and composting. I met recently with the Composting and Aerobic Digestion Association of Ireland, Cré, which the committee may have come across. They made clear to me that their problem was lack of feed stock, but they feel there is a lot they could do. In short, I think we need to bring this in. I intend to bring forward an amendment on Report Stage to introduce a new reference to anaerobic digestion and other technologies, and the national bioeconomy policy statement. My officials have been working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on this. They will have something ready for the next Stage. I am aware that this is a big issue also in Deputy Farrell's constituency, obviously, with a lot of fruit and vegetables grown in that area.
Amendment No. 9 relates to voluntary sectoral compacts and public procurement. I would need a definition of what a "circular compact" is. It is quite a phrase. This amendment needs more work on the wording. I am in favour of the amendment's approach and I am in favour of the idea of using sectoral compacts to enhance circularity, but I want to bring it to Report Stage. I want to discuss it with the Office of the Attorney General first, just to make sure that I get the drafting right.
Deputy Bruton's anecdote about the purchase of the embassy was great.
Public procurement is my responsibility. I think the Deputy said that a reply to a parliamentary question showed a low rate of green public procurement. I presume that dates back to before my time. We have been working really hard on this. The programme for Government says that we are to are green all of our public procurement frameworks where possible. In other words, we are to change the rules about how we purchase each sectoral product type in order to do it in a green way. We are more than 85% of the way there on that work. We are to do it within three years. We are certainly going to make that target. The next time the data are collected, they will be much more favourable. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has done much work on this. It has updated the guidelines on green public procurement for the first time in many years. I have asked the Office of Government Procurement to change its training systems so that it can train the purchasing officers in how to buy in a green way. The right way to do this is not always obvious. We have looked at international best practice. We have worked with the EPA. We got consultancy advice on it and so on. It is an ongoing process. As all frameworks are done now, they will be done in a green way where this is possible and where there is any option for being green. For example, if we were to buy legal services, could we do that in a green way? I am not so sure that we could. However, other areas are much more amenable towards green public procurement. While I am not accepting that amendment, I will try to bring forward an amendment that will work on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 10, in the name of Deputy Whitmore, is about consultation and poverty-proofing of the strategy. Certainly, stakeholder groups in poverty, disadvantage and disability will be invited to join the Department’s formal circular economy stakeholder group. I will make sure of that. Amendment No. 10 would require further extensive discussion with the Office of the Attorney General. I think it would also require amendments to other sections of the Bill in the form of additional definitions. However, I agree that we need to have inclusiveness and poverty-proofing of national policies. This is not just because it is the right and moral thing to do, but also because it makes it more effective, more reasonable, and acceptable to the public. If the Deputy is amenable, my officials will engage directly with her with a view to developing a form of wording that would be suitable for me to bring forward as an amendment on this issue on Report Stage.
I would like to thank Deputy Whitmore for amendment No. 11. I will be accepting it. We have to make sure any changes that we are making in public policy do not disadvantage people because of their abilities.
Amendment No. 12 relates to the biodiversity strategy. Deputy Bruton is withdrawing that, because it is already included in amendment No. 11, which I am accepting.
I will go back to Deputy Christopher O’Sullivan on amendment No. 8. The Minister of State has indicated that he will come back.
Based on his encouraging comments about bringing an amendment back on Report Stage, I will withdraw the amendment.
Deputy Bruton is not proceeding with amendment No. 9 on the basis that the Minister of State indicated he would look at the matter.
Does Deputy Whitmore wish to comment on amendment No. 10?
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 10, to delete lines 9 to 11 and substitute the following:
“(3) The Minister shall, before he or she submits a circular economy strategy to the Government for their approval under this section—
(a) consult with the public and such persons as he or she considers appropriate,(b) ensure the circular economy strategy is poverty-proofed by constructively engaging with advocacy groups and organisations representing people on low and/or fixed incomes, those in consistent or persistent poverty, minority groups, the elderly and those living with a disability, and(c) have regard to the principles of a just transition and climate justice and the impact the circular economy will have on disadvantaged groups, in the drafting of a circular economy strategy.”.
I will engage with the Minister of State on this matter. I will wait and see what the outcomes of those discussions are.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 10, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:
“(c) the National Biodiversity Action Plan;
(d) the National Disability Inclusion Strategy;
(e) the Roadmap for Social Inclusion;”.
The Minister of State has said that he is accepting this amendment.
Amendment No. 13 has already been discussed with amendment No. 1.
I move amendment No. 13:
"In page 10, line 25, to delete “The circular economy strategy may” and substitute the following:
“Within 6 months of the publication of the first circular economy strategy referred to in subsection (2), the circular economy strategy shall”."
I believe the Minister of State indicated that he will accept amendment No. 14. He might discuss his understanding of the word "within". If he is accepting amendment No. 14, I am happy enough to withdraw amendment No. 13.
May I seek some clarity on that? Will the circular economy strategy be published immediately? The difference between amendments Nos. 13 and 14 relates to the timeframe. I would be happy if amendment No. 14 were to be accepted, as long as there was an understanding that there would not be a significant delay.
I will interject on this. Deputy Bríd Smith is not here to move amendment No. 14. However, the Minister of State indicated earlier that he was sympathetic to it and that he would come back to it on Report Stage.
Exactly. As Deputy Bríd Smith is not here to move her amendment, I will ask for it to be brought back in on Report Stage.
Is amendment No. 13 being withdrawn?
I am happy enough to withdraw it. The Minister of State said that amendment No. 14 is a stronger amendment on the basis that it does not include the words, “Within 6 months”. If that is a commitment to do it within that timeframe, or for it to be done quickly, I am happy with that.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 10, line 25, after "targets," where it secondly occurs to insert "in Construction, Food, Clothing and Textiles, Equipment, and other relevant sectors," .
I am not pressing amendments Nos. 15 and 17 because the Minister of State intends to look at the substance of these amendments on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 16 has been already been discussed.
I move amendment No. 16:
"In page 10, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:
“(b) reductions in plastic single use items according to the waste hierarchy within EU Waste Directive 2008/98 and Commission Implementation Regulation (EU) 2020/2151 Single Use plastic Directive,”.
I will withdraw the amendment. I might reintroduce it on Report Stage. The Chair might read out the amendments that the Minister has given, so that we know which ones have been accepted or are going to be accepted. That might help.
Does the Deputy want me to go through the whole list?
I do not think it would be that big, in fairness.
He is very sympathetic.
I might suggest that a list might be copied and circulated. I know that it was provided, and I thought it might be on MS Teams, but it is a paper copy.
We can do that. Is Deputy Devlin happy to reintroduce amendment No. 16 on Report Stage?
Amendment No. 18 has already been discussed in the first grouping.
I move amendment No. 18:
“In page 10, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:
“(b) actions which reflect a just transition approach to a circular economy, ensuring full participation by all members of society in the new strategy, and”.”
I will withdraw the amendment and reintroduce it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 19:
“In page 10, after line 37, 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 co-operative and social enterprises such as Men’s Sheds.”.”
We will withdraw our amendment. We thank the Minister of State for his response on it. We may consider introducing it, or something along its lines, on Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 20 to 24, inclusive are related and will be discussed together. Amendment No. 23 is consequential on amendment 20. Therefore, if amendment No. 20 is not accepted, amendment No. 23 cannot be moved.
I move amendment No. 20:
“In page 10, after line 37, to insert the following:
“(8) The Minister shall prepare a review on an annual basis, to evaluate outcomes against stated deliverables of the circular economy strategy, including any relevant data on progress, barriers to progress and recommendations on adjustment of the circular economy strategy or other measures, including financial measures, to address any such barriers or shortfalls as may be identified by the review.”.”
This amendment is specifically in relation to an annual progress report on the circular economy strategy. This would essentially provide an update on what progress is being made. This may have come up at pre-legislative scrutiny. There would be a certain harmony if this report were to coincide with, for example, the annual climate action plan. In this amendment, we call for a progress report to be prepared.
Amendment No. 23, similar to the strategy that is already in the plan, proposes that a progress report would be published and would be made available on the website.
Does Deputy Whitmore wish to speak to amendment No. 21?
This amendment essentially relates to how, when we look at the strategies, we need to have annual reporting on them to know whether we are on track, as well as what kind of data we need, how it is operating, and whether there are any barriers to the progress on it.
Essentially, it is just a monitoring of the actual policy, and that the monitoring and the outcomes is a transparent process by which people can engage with it. As with any policy, there needs to be a continual feedback loop, and this is just facilitating that to ensure that the policy does what it says it is to do, and also that it is performing in the way we expect it and want it to. That is it essentially.
Amendment No. 22 is in the name of Deputy Smith, who is not present. Amendment No. 23 is negated by amendment No. 20, so it cannot be moved. We can now discuss amendment No. 24.
I agree with the idea of having an annual review and reports of progress. I am proposing that the report on the progress in relation to the circular economy would be integrated with the climate action reporting, which is done through the Department of the Taoiseach, as well as the Minister of State's Department, so it creates an obligation and an expectation that other Ministers will be stepping up to the plate in terms of their role. I believe this would be a very useful addition because one of the things that distinguishes the climate action plan that we put in place originally, and which is also reflected in the new plan, is that by having oversight from the office of the Taoiseach we would, as they say in America, "bite with the President's teeth". We would get greater traction in being able to see that Ministers and senior officials take their responsibilities seriously. I strongly advocate that the Minister of State would consider integrating it because it is the Minister of State's own Department. The two tracks are parallel. It would not be a big addition and would bring the circular economy more centre stage in the way that people think about their work. I believe it would be a very good move.
Amendments Nos. 20 to 24, inclusive, provide for an annual review of a circular economy strategy and for publication of that review. I have looked at these amendments and I believe it is important that we have regular monitoring and reviews, and that we would use the outcome of those reviews to see that the objectives are being achieved and whether we need to change direction. It is also important that we do not get caught up in reviewing things too frequently and using up excessive resources by getting into a cycle of reviewing rather than doing. It is particularly the case where the legislation does provide for a full update of the strategy every three years. That said, I do agree that it would be appropriate for the Minister to conduct an annual review of the circular economy strategy.
While I am not accepting amendments Nos. 20 to 24, I will bring amendments on Report Stage to provide for a review. It is my intention to bring these amendments in the same form as those found in amendments Nos. 48 and 49, which Deputies Bruton and Smith brought with regard to the food waste strategy. I will use that as a template. I believe that these provide for a proportionate reporting requirement, and they give effect to the intention of the amendments brought in relation to this issue. While I am not accepting the amendments, they have given me the idea to rewrite them and get them into the next Stage. I thank the Deputies for bringing them forward and for their contributions.
Do Deputies O'Rourke and Cronin wish to press amendment No. 20?
No. On the basis of what the Minister of State has said, we will withdraw the amendment and wait to see what comes forward on Report Stage, and we will possibly resubmit.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 10, after line 37, to insert the following:
“(8) The Minister will present the circular economy strategy to the Government for approval, and following approval, shall carry out the following in relation to the circular economy strategy:
(a) prepare a review on an annual basis, to evaluate outcomes against stated deliverables of the circular economy strategy, including any relevant data on progress, barriers to progress and recommendations on adjustment of the circular economy strategy or other measures, including financial measures, to address any such barriers or shortfalls as may be identified by the review;
(b) ensure that annual reviews referred to in paragraph (a), are made available to the public by publication on a website maintained by or on behalf of the Minister or the Government.”.
I will also wait to see what the Minister of State says. I ask that there would be specifics written into it, if possible. I am not sure what Deputy Bruton had in mind for the model the Minister of State said he will use. It is important to namecheck the specific requirements as part of that monitoring.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 11, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“(9) The Minister, and relevant sectoral Ministers shall report progress on actions and targets through the reporting mechanisms established under section 15 of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.”.
I will withdraw this but suggest to the Minister of State that he would consider this formula as an alternative to the formula in amendment No. 49 because it gives it more leverage.
Amendments No. 25 and 51 are related and may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 11, between lines 3 and 4, 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.”.
On the right to repair, this amendment seeks that the Minister would, within 12 months, prepare and publish a report examining how a right to repair can be introduced in Ireland. We had significant discussions at pre-legislative scrutiny, and there are recommendations in our report. It is a weakness of the Bill that it does not adequately address this. Some of the points were mentioned earlier on, including the definition of circular economy, the need to put on pressure at every stage of the process, including at design stage, which is as important as any stage. The right to repair speaks to that.
We call for a report examining the opportunity that is here. We heard numerous concerns from people operating within that environment in Ireland, be it around insurance or the tax regime. We also call for an examination of a possible scoring system. The Minister of State will be familiar with the arguments around keeping products alive and the other element of product obsolescence. There is huge opportunity to go further here and this is why we propose the amendment.
My amendment No. 51 is about the right to repair, and specifically around diagnosis, maintenance and repair of electronic equipment. The amendment, which I submitted for the Labour Party, forms the basis of a Bill we were preparing to bring forward, that we say is an integral part of any sort of circular economy approach. We are hopeful that the Minister of State might agree to it in principle, or agree to look at it between now and Report Stage. I do not intend to press this amendment. I will withdraw the amendment when we come to it, and I have emailed to say that if I am not physically present that it might be withdrawn with a view to bringing it back on Report Stage.
We feel that this is a very important part of a circular economy approach, and that it would offer consumers a really tangible, meaningful, and practical application of the circular economy. All of us are very familiar with that awful feeling when we break a phone and cannot get it fixed with a local independent repair shop without losing the warranty. I use phones as one example but all of us are familiar with other instances of this. Our amendment, in a very detailed fashion, seeks to address the imbalance of power between the consumer and the manufacturer. Manufacturers are currently holding consumers over a barrel on these warranties. While we want to put more work in the way of the local independent repair shops it is also hugely important as a way of ensuring that we do not see the wastage of digital electronic equipment that currently goes on when it breaks, and that we would see a genuinely circular approach where equipment can be repaired, parts can be replaced, and we can continue as consumers to have our warranties. I am grateful to Karlin Lillington in The Irish Times who first drew my attention to the measures that have been introduced in the US on this, where a lot more has been done on the right to repair, and specifically of digital electronic equipment.
It is on that basis that we produced this very detailed and comprehensive amendment and we would really like to engage with the Minister of State and his officials on how the principle behind it could be brought into effect in a very tangible way to enable consumers to see how the circular economy can work in their favour.
On the right to repair, it is really important that we can repair goods. What does the right to repair mean? It means having access to product manuals, parts, the information on how to fix something and the relevant software. It also comes down to the design of the product. For example, with a mobile phone that has been glued together, with the battery glued to the case, it is much harder to change the battery than with a the phone that is screwed together.
How does one know before one buys a product how repairable or durable it is? Deputy Bacik referred to an information imbalance between the corporate sector and the person buying the product and that has to be corrected. The work that is being done on this at EU level, in which I have participated at the Council of Ministers, is critical. The next stage in that work is going to be negotiation between member states at the Council and the result of that will be a new eco design directive. I would expect that in a future where there is a right to repair, when people go into a shop they will see a rating on products showing their repairability and durability in the same way that they see an energy rating on white goods at the moment, which was the result of the previous eco design directive. People will be able to see whether the product can be repaired and they will have an absolute right to manuals, parts and so on.
While I am very keen that all of that works, this work is happening at an EU level and whatever is done there will then be transposed into Irish law. I hope I am here to do that when it happens but I am not planning to put a different right to repair into Irish law before we get there. Repair cafés are a part of that and also men's sheds which were referenced by Deputies O'Rourke and Cronin in an earlier amendment. These are places where people share knowledge on how to fix things and are a critical part of the circular economy. Our circular economy strategy recognises this and commits to a circular economy for consumer goods, with a focus on the repair sector and helping traditional tradespeople like shoemakers, tailors and so on to succeed in the future. We are talking about a return to the types of industries that were around in our parents' and grandparents' era. I am not going to accept these amendments given the work being done at EU level. A new regulation on eco design is likely to come through shortly and a proposal for a directive to empower consumers for a green transition through better protection against unfair practices and better information, which will address the information imbalance between the seller and the buyer. With that in mind, I am rejecting these amendments but will be working on them at EU level instead.
On the basis of what the Minister of State has said, I will be withdrawing amendment No. 25 with a view to having ongoing discussions on these issues before Report Stage. I thank the Minister of State for his response. It would be important, beyond the introduction of this Bill and when we see what happens at EU level, that the Minister of State continues to engage with the Opposition and others to try to address these issues in an Irish context.
I thank the Minister of State for his response and for acknowledging the information and power imbalance between consumers and manufacturers that the right to repair principle seeks to address. As he said, it is a critical part of any circular economy approach. We had an exchange previously in the Dáil Chamber and the Minister of State referred then to ongoing developments at EU level and I was very conscious of that in drafting our amendment. However, also being conscious of how slowly things can move at EU level and the fact that there is not, as I understand it, even a draft of the directive yet, I would argue that it is time for us to move more swiftly and to be ahead of the curve. Given that the Minister of State and officials from Ireland have been engaged at EU level in considering how the European-wide approach is going to be framed in law, I would argue that we could do something here that paves the way for the introduction of the EU directive elsewhere and that makes us leaders on a circular economy and a right to repair approach. I will be withdrawing this amendment at this point but I do want to bring it back on Report Stage to have a further discussion. Indeed, we may wish to tweak it, in light of ongoing EU developments. I join Deputy O'Rourke in asking that there would be engagement with the Opposition on developments here because we all have the same motivation, to ensure that there is a genuine and effective right to repair for consumers, not just for digital electronic equipment, although that is clearly a priority, but also across the circular economy more generally.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 12, line 30, after “communities” to insert “, in particular, communities which are disadvantaged and marginalised”.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 13, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“(o) to facilitate and support initiatives undertaken by communities or organisations which promote the principles of a just transition and climate justice;”.
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 13, line 4, after “environment” to insert “, including for the purposes of protecting biodiversity”.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 13, line 36, after “accordingly.”, to insert the following:
“The Minister will ensure the following in relation to the membership of the committee:
(a) all members of the committee must go through the public appointments service;(b) candidates may only be considered once they have completed their application through the public appointments service;(c) that gender balance is reflected in its membership; and(d) at least one appointee has expertise, or professional experience, on the subject of poverty, just transition and climate justice.”.
I will press this amendment.
Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 are related and my be discussed together,by agreement.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 14, line 24, to delete “Agency” and substitute “Minister”
This amendment seeks to assign responsibility for the circular economy programme to the Minister as opposed to the EPA. Amendment No. 31 does the same thing in a long-winded sort of way. This is an issue that came up during the pre-legislative scrutiny stage. Indeed, it may have been one of the recommendations, if I recall correctly. We feel it is appropriate, while understanding the responsibilities and competencies of the agency, that the Minister is defined in legislation and is ultimately accountable.
This did come up in the course of our earlier discussions and one agency having responsibility for the development of the circular economy programme seemed strange to me. I know the agency would have particular responsibilities and I can see why it might get mentioned in the legislation but the way it reads at the moment, the Minister presents the strategy and the EPA produces the programme. The EPA is not an agency that has the leverage that would be necessary, outside of its own statutory functions which, of course, are important. In terms of what the EPA can do in respect of another public body, its powers are referred to on page 15. It can furnish a copy of the programme to any other public body that, in its opinion, has an interest in the programme which is not the most intrusive form of leverage that one could envisage. I can see why this was referred to in our report and why Deputy O'Rourke has tabled this amendment. There is some merit in it.
The amendments, which I will not accept, would transfer the responsibility for preparing a programme from the agency to the Minister. The strategy will be prepared by the Minister and have to be approved by the Government, and the idea is the programme is the operational element prepared by the EPA. This is based on the model used in the waste prevention strategies and programmes, which is functioning. The agency is, of course, fully independent and if the Minister contravenes that independence by intervening in its operational decision-making, it will defeat the purpose of having an EPA that can carry out its operational tasks. The Minister will set the strategy, therefore, and the EPA will look after the operational portion. That is my reasoning for leaving that operational responsibility with the EPA and leaving the strategic responsibility with the Minister.
I will not press the amendments. I hear what the Minister of State is saying and I will withdraw the amendments with a view to reintroducing them on Report Stage. Nevertheless, he has the committee report and has heard the discussions and concerns here, so I ask him to reconsider the matter on Report Stage. He may remain satisfied with the current position, but I ask him to take on board the concerns he has heard here and during pre-legislative scrutiny.
Will the Minister of State outline the policy tools that will be included in executing the circular economy strategy? My fear is that many of the tools we might want to deploy will not be ones for which the EPA has the legislative powers. If we were considering banning a product, we would have to do something else, or if we were developing a strategy for construction, I do not think we could reasonably expect the EPA to have the bandwidth to be doing that. It would be useful if the Minister of State could provide a note for the committee on how the Government plans to execute the strategy when it has developed it. It seems there will be a lot more to it than the EPA running a programme. As I said earlier, this comes very much from a waste-centric view, whereby the circular economy would be just a patch onto the waste process, but it goes much more fundamentally back up the supply chain into design issues and I do not think the EPA has the expertise or the legal authority to address some of the issues the Government might want to tackle in a circular economy strategy.
I have asked my staff, and they have agreed, to prepare such a report for the Deputy and the other committee members before Report Stage in order that we can examine any specific cases. He suggested the EPA's bandwidth would be stretched. Is that his concern?
I am not sure the EPA's legislation ever intended it to examine design issues, how markets are established, the principles that apply, how the planning system works to integrate circular prospects and how public procurement works. That seems a little beyond the agency's remit.
We will go into the details of that and circulate the report to all the members of the committee.
Will Deputy Bruton outline those very valid concerns in writing in order to guide the Minister of State and his officials in preparing the report they will send back to us? That would be helpful.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 15, to delete lines 1 to 6 and substitute the following:
“(4) The Minister and the Agency shall, from time to time as considered appropriate, but not less than once in each period of 6 years from the date on which the most recent circular economy programme was established, review the programme and make such revisions to as considered appropriate and a reference in this Part to such a programme shall, unless the context otherwise requires, be construed as being a reference to such a programme as so revised.”.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 16, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:
“(c) the use of materials in packaging for the retail sector as the Minister may prescribe for the purposes of this section.”.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 16, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:
“(c) materials which present substantial difficulty for recycling, where suitable alternatives exist.”.
We will withdraw the amendment with a view to returning to it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 16, line 23, after “available” to insert the following:
“and if the levels of material wastage of the single-use item do not adhere to the principles as outlined in EU Waste Directive 2008/98 regarding lifecycle justification and the best overall environmental outcome in regard to achieving the lowest carbon dioxide emissions and freshwater consumption”.
I will return to the amendment on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 16, line 32, to delete “less than €0.20 or more than €1.00” and substitute the following:“less than €0.01 or more than €1.00, which will be determined by the total percentage of plastic content within the material of the single-use item”.
Likewise, I intend to return to this amendment on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 36:
In page 16, line 32, after “€1.00” to insert the following:“and be applied on a pro-rata basis according to the total percentage of plastic content within the material of the single-use item”.
I also intend to return this amendment on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 17, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:“(10) All revenue generated from the environment levies as referenced in this Part, will be ringfenced for the Circular Economy Fund and for the purposes specified in section 8.”.
In light of what the Minister of State said, I will withdraw the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 38 to 43, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 38:
In page 20, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:“(e) food contact materials in which perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used;”.
This is a straightforward amendment that relates to an issue that was raised with us at pre-legislative scrutiny, where it may have arisen as one of the recommendations of the committee. We touched on the issue earlier. The amendment will include food contact materials in which perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS, have been used. Amendment No. 39 will just recategorise the items listed. The Minister of State will be familiar with the argument behind the amendments, which are both quite straightforward.
Amendment No. 40 is along similar lines to Deputy O’Rourke’s amendments but will cast the net more widely and allow the Minister to ban “such material or class of materials used in the production or the items referred to ... as he may prescribe for the purposes of this section". I was not sure whether the Minister had the powers. The Minister of State indicated earlier that the Minister does but they must, obviously, be exercised within the context of the EU Single Market. My amendment may not be necessary if the Minister has such powers. The Minister of State might indicate what will be the source of the Minister’s powers if these amendments are not accepted.
Amendment No. 41 will change the wording from "suitable" to "recyclable", which will encourage and create what the Minister of State is hoping to do, namely, to have the circular economy fully operational. It is a matter of wording.
Similarly, amendment No. 42 seeks to encourage better outcomes than those that flow from the existing single-use alternatives. The Minister of State might outline what kind of engagement has happened with industry and business. While there were no amendments under the levies, there are concerns about the full implication and impact the Bill will have, on both manufacturing and disposal.
There really is a need to ensure that any levies are pro rata to discourage the disposal of products that have a longer lifespan. I heard what the Minister of State said about the paper versus plastic cup, for example, but my fear is that the consequence of some elements of this Bill would be that products would be advertised as reusable but their flimsiness would be such that they would not actually be reused or retained by the customer but would be discarded. That is not something that I, the Minister of State, or anyone else on this committee wants to see but there is a genuine fear within the sector. The Minister of State said he would engage with café owners but many of the elements of this Bill will come as a surprise not only to business owners, but also to consumers, given the speed with which it has come to this committee. In that context, I ask the Minister of State to outline the engagement he has had with industry and business. I also ask him to respond to amendments Nos. 42 and 43.
Separately, I cannot find the list of amendments that the Minister of State proposes to accept. Is it available on Microsoft Teams?
Yes, we circulated a copy of the Minister's list.
I wish to make a very quick point about something that I raised with the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, previously, in the context of amendment No. 43. While there are particularities with the Irish food market, the French, for example, have moved on plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables and that is something we think should be pursued and considered.
PFAS chemicals are a significant concern based on their toxicity. While bearing in mind that this is a Bill about the principles of wastage and circularity rather than toxicity, there are genuine concerns, if not real problems, with these chemicals. They can be extremely hazardous and because of this, they are being regulated at EU level rather than by individual member states. In recent years the EU has put in place a number of new strategies aimed at strengthening legislation to ensure that chemicals are safe and sustainable by design and that the most hazardous chemicals are banned. My Department and other Departments and agencies that have responsibility for chemicals policy are engaging actively with the EU on these matters and strongly supporting the initiatives being undertaken at EU level. Of particular relevance with regard to PFAS are the EU farm to fork strategy, the EU chemical strategy for sustainability and the European Commission-led review of the packaging and packaging waste directive. I am committed to ensuring Ireland plays a lead role in pushing the level of ambition in proposals emerging from this review. Effective regulation of PFAS is being addressed at EU level and we are actively engaging with our EU colleagues on that. On the basis that this is not the right place to do it, I am rejecting these amendments.
I will now turn to amendments Nos. 41 and 42 from Deputy Devlin. The intention behind amendment No. 42 is adequately covered by the current drafting of section 14(3), which allows for the banning of specific types of single-use items, with a wider class of items concerned. I am not going to accept that amendment on the basis that its provisions are already covered. On amendment No. 41, it is not appropriate to provide that the reusable alternative must be recyclable because this limits the scope of the provision. For example, one may be using a crockery mug to get a coffee instead of a paper cup and while the crockery mug may not be recyclable, it is certainly much more environmentally friendly. One could use a crockery mug 500 times but only use a paper cup once and even though one cannot recycle crockery, I would not be in favour of banning it or restricting its use. There are cases where a reusable alternative is not recyclable but is extremely durable, as is the case with a typical mug that one finds in one's kitchen. I do not foresee such circumstances arising often but I can use the legislation as drafted to ban items if I need to, under section 14.
Amendment No. 43 provides that the Minister shall, within 12 months of the passing of this Act, "draft and publish a report examining how single use plastics used in the sale of fruit and vegetables can be reduced." The example in France has inspired this amendment. The French have gone ahead and introduced restrictions for particular types of hard fruit and vegetables. They are planning, over time, to widen that out to softer fruits. I would like to accept the amendment and such a report could certainly help in establishing circular economy principles in the retail sector but I want to review the 12-month timeframe. I want to make sure that it is realistic and that any report can be completed on time. I would ask the Deputies to withdraw their amendment and I will introduce it on Report Stage.
I am happy to withdraw amendment No. 38, subject to a note being circulated. Reference was made to a note on the powers. A question was raised-----
It is a separate note but the officials have said they will prepare another note for Deputy O'Rourke.
Okay, if they could clarify the situation in that regard, that would be welcome because this has a broader application.
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 20, line 36, to delete “paragraphs (a) to (d)” and substitute “paragraphs (a) to (e)”
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 20, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:
“(f) such material or class of materials used in the production or the items referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e) as he may prescribe for the purposes of this section.”.
It would be useful to have a note on the powers that the Minister has to take certain materials out of the waste stream and how they are constrained. I thought they were quite constrained by EU law but a note on it would be useful.
The Minister of State is getting homework from the committee today.
To answer Deputy Bruton's question, those powers are in section 14. I urge him to look through those at his leisure and then come back to me.
I move amendment No. 41:
In page 21, line 3, after “suitable” where it firstly occurs to insert “recyclable”.
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 21, line 4, after “wastage” to insert the following:
“that provides a better environmental outcome demonstrated through life-cycle thinking compared to the existing single-use alternative”.
I was asked by Deputy Devlin about the engagement I have had with industry and would like to reply to that question. My Department has ongoing engagement with IBEC and with Food Drink Ireland on this and a range other matters. I recently met representatives of Retail Ireland and the chief executives of Chadwicks, Maxol and Musgraves to discuss this. One of the largest disposable cup manufacturers in Ireland has had engagement, not directly with me but with my Department, to discuss the implications of this Bill. The Bill says that before any levy is imposed on any particular product type, there must be consultation with the public and with industry. A levy cannot come in automatically without that happening but even so, leading up to this there is continual engagement and I meet representatives of SMEs every three months, as a matter of course.
Section 14 refers only to single-use items. It does not refer to materials, which is slightly different. If a material ought not to be there, the Minister can only ban it if it is being used in single-use items.
If there is a material that is just used in certain single-use items, then we can ban it in that way. The Deputy is right to say that the Bill does not allow us to ban steel from all product types, for example.
If it is believed that steel should not be in a single-use item, it can be done in that way.
The Minister of State referred to PFAS being toxic. It is under different legislation that he-----
Yes. What the Bill is specifically doing relates to the principles of material wastage. The Bill relates to circularity and the efficiency of the use of resources, rather than being about toxicity itself.
I refer to the alloys the Minister of State rightly stated are almost impossible to recycle. In the case of a packet of sweets, for example, that has been given a glossy treatment to make it shine, does he have the power under the Bill to state that the mix is a bad use of materials that makes the product unrecyclable and then, ultimately, phase out its use? It does not have to be an overnight ban.
My understanding is that section 14 allows for that to be done for single-use items, as the Deputy stated. If the product made from a combination of materials is a single-use item, I have the power to ban its use.
All packaging would be deemed to be single use.
I thank the Minister of State for his comments on industry and businesses. While I heard his welcome remarks in respect of IBEC, Food Drink Ireland and other organisations, on the other end of the circular economy, has there been engagement with waste disposal companies? If so, how recent was that engagement?
He referred to the levy going to public consultation and whatever else. As regards other charges relating to the waste industry, will a similar approach be taken with waste contractors? I refer to levies in respect of certain materials going to landfill rather than incineration, etc. Is that kind of engagement going to happen? I am looking at some of the proposed charges. Is there going to be change in the context of keeping that parity between the various waste streams?
There has been engagement with the waste industry through the Irish Waste Management Association, IWMA, and the waste action group. That is the format. There has also been engagement on the levies for incineration and disposal. I can get more details for the Deputy on that.
What impact will that have on the Bill? Will there be changes to the legislation in respect of items going to landfill rather than incineration or being recycled? At the moment, there are different levels of charges for different materials. If that is going to change, will that engagement happen after the enactment of the Bill?
I want to move on. To be fair to the Minister of State and his officials, they might need to go back and------
If they send me a note, that will be fine.
I will send the Deputy a note. If he emails me the details of his query, I will send him a note and distribute it to the rest of the committee.
I thank the Minister of State.
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 21, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:
“(7) The Minister shall, within 12 months of the passing of this Act, draft and publish a report examining how single use plastics used in the sale of fruit and vegetables can be reduced.”.
I thank the Minister of State for his response. I will withdraw the amendment with a view to reintroducing it on Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 44 to 50, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 50 is consequential on amendment No. 46. Amendments Nos. 44 to 50, inclusive, may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 44:
In page 21, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:
“(2) Within the first national food waste prevention strategy, the Minister shall set annual food waste reduction targets, sector by sector, to reach the 50 per cent food waste reduction target by 2030, based on 2020 food waste figures.”.
The amendment relates to the national food waste prevention strategy, setting targets sector by sector and outlining an approach to reaching the 50% food waste reduction target by 2030 using 2020 food waste figures as a baseline.
Amendment No. 46 relates to a progress report. It is similar to previous amendments. Amendment No. 47 relates to empowerment, while amendment No. 50 relates to annual publication of the strategy and progress report.
Deputy Bríd Smith is not here to speak to amendment No. 48. Does Deputy Bruton wish to speak to amendment No. 49?
The Minister of State sort of signalled that he was happy with the amendment, so I do not think I need to address it.
Amendment No. 44 specifies that "the Minister shall set annual food waste reduction targets, sector by sector". We have a 50% target by 2030 and the amendment seeks to break that down into annual and sectoral targets. That would be a detailed breakdown. By way of comparison, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act sets five-year targets as well as sectoral targets but they are not on an annual basis. It is probably unrealistic to expect a straight-line year-by-year target, particularly if there is such a target for each sector. Sectoral division is needed and one needs to have some idea in that regard but what the amendment proposes is too granular. In practice, when one is trying to meet a target over a number of years, there are good years and bad years. The work of strategy and preparations may suddenly kick in during a particular year, for example. To do it on a year-by-year basis would be very difficult.
There is a process under way at EU level to set targets to reduce food waste across the EU which will take into account data reported by member states in mid-2022. Subject to EU developments, it is expected that the baseline year that links to the 2030 50% reduction target will be the reference year 2020. Ireland’s food waste dataset for 2020 will be reported by the Environmental Protection Agency in mid-2022. An adoption of the legislative proposal on EU food waste reduction targets is foreseen for the second quarter of 2023. At the moment, we do not even have a base year for what the EU is proposing, so we are kind of in the dark as regards what the 50% actually means or, in other words, what the volumetric quantity of food waste will be in 2030. It is difficult to set targets without knowing what the EU will come back with for the base year. We need to know the base year before we can do something like that.
The draft national food waste prevention roadmap was recently made available for public consultation. It commits to setting interim targets following the establishment of the baseline. These will take account of developments at EU level. That is the right thing to do. We need interim targets. I do not think they will be annual targets but there will certainly be interim targets based on the baseline set by the EU. It is appropriate that we await the outcome of the EU process for setting food waste reduction targets before determining the approach for setting food waste reduction targets in the national food waste prevention strategy. For that reason, I will not be accepting amendment No. 44.
Amendment No. 45, tabled by Deputy Whitmore, seeks that additional documents be included in the Bill. That is worthwhile and the right thing to do, so I will be accepting the amendment. I thank the Deputy for suggesting it. Following consultation with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, I may bring further amendments on Report Stage to provide for definitions of each of these documents in the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 46, 48, 49 and 50 relate to reviews. It is intended that the national food waste prevention strategy, which is a statutory policy, will establish a monitoring and evaluation framework to monitor progress of key actions on food waste prevention to ensure Ireland delivers on its food waste prevention commitments. A draft national food waste prevention strategy was recently made available for public consultation. It outlines that a food waste prevention task force comprising representatives from key sectors and organisations will be established and will monitor the implementation and progress of the roadmap delivery. The findings of the food waste prevention task force will be reviewed and, in line with the Bill, the roadmap will be updated accordingly to ensure actions remain relevant and appropriate and so that Ireland is on the right path to deliver on its food waste reduction obligation of a 50% cut by 2030.
I note the intention of the amendments and agree it would be appropriate for the Minister to conduct an annual review of the national food waste prevention strategy. Accordingly, I will accept amendments Nos. 48 and 49, tabled by Deputies Bruton and Bríd Smith, respectively, because they will give effect to the intention of all the amendments on this issue. Given Deputy Smith and, in respect of amendment No. 45, Deputy Whitmore are not present, I will reintroduce their amendments on Report Stage. Because amendments Nos. 48 and 49 will achieve what I have set out, I will not accept amendments Nos. 46 and 50. Nevertheless, I would like to thank those Deputies for introducing the amendments, given the provision is a worthwhile contribution that will improve the Bill.
Finally, amendment No. 47, tabled by Deputies O'Rourke and Cronin, would provide that the Minister "shall ensure the national food waste prevention strategy is accompanied by powers, authority and accountability". It is intended the national food waste prevention strategy will establish a monitoring and evaluation framework on a statutory basis to check progress on key actions in respect of food waste prevention to ensure Ireland will deliver on its food waste prevention commitments. As such, I do not propose to accept that amendment.
I take on board the Minister of State's reply and will withdraw the amendment with a view to reintroducing it on Report Stage. Nevertheless, and he has indicated he will make a contribution in this regard, I am concerned there is not enough in primary legislation to detail what will be in the food waste prevention strategy. It may end up weak in terms of targets, accountability and enforceability. The Minister of State has spoken to some of those points but he might reflect on it before Report Stage and, whether in the legislation or in his comments at that point, emphasise the issue.
Deputy Whitmore is not present to move amendment No. 45 but the Minister of State indicated he will reintroduce it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 46:
In page 21, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
“(4) The Minister shall prepare a review on an annual basis, to evaluate outcomes against stated deliverables of the national food waste prevention strategy, based on data collected from all food sectors and waste industry, and provide recommendations on the adjustment of the national food waste prevention strategy or other measures, including financial measures, to address any barriers or shortfalls as may be identified by the review.”.
I will withdraw this amendment and amendment No. 47, both of which are dealt with by a later amendment.
I move amendment No. 47:
In page 21, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
“(4) The Minister shall ensure the national food waste prevention strategy is accompanied by powers, authority and accountability.”.
On amendment No. 48, Deputy Bríd Smith is not present but the Minister of State indicated he will return to the issue on Report Stage with a similar amendment.
I move amendment No. 49:
In page 21, line 39, after “Government” to insert “and the Minister will report annually on the progress of the strategy”.
Amendment No. 50 cannot be moved because it is contingent on amendment No. 46.
Amendment No. 51, proposed by Deputy Bacik, proposes a new section. She is not present to move it.
Deputy Bacik indicated she wished to withdraw the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 52, 56, 57 and 62 are related and will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 22, line 30, after “monitored” to insert “, or are capable of being monitored,”.
Amendments Nos. 52 and 62 are technical drafting amendments to the proposed definition of CCTV in the Waste Management Act 1996 and the Litter Pollution Act 1997. The amendments were tabled on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General and provide for circumstances where the signals of the recording devices will not be monitored on a 24-hour basis by the local authority but will be “capable” of being monitored.
It may be a matter for a different Bill, but will this get around our perennial problem of local authorities installing CCTV cameras and not being able to monitor them for the purposes of their erection?
That is exactly what it is. It is a proposal that we will put into primary legislation the right of local authorities to use CCTV to obtain evidence to convict people, whether they are dumping, under the Waste Management Act, which is sometimes commercial, or littering. We worked with the Attorney General to ensure we were providing enough safeguards such that the person's right to privacy would be protected and that we would not be disproportionate in allowing local authorities to put up cameras everywhere and then using them to convict people of other crimes. It will mean specifically that the local authority will have to produce a code of use, which I can reject and so on. The local authority must use the footage specifically to catch people who litter in blackspots or other areas and to obtain evidence to that effect.
Does the scope of the provision extend only to littering?
It includes dumping as well. The Waste Management Act relates to fly-tipping and so on, while littering is covered by the Litter Pollution Act. What other crimes is the Deputy thinking of?
There are a few.
It is not a general introduction of surveillance.
That is fine and I appreciate that-----
It is highly limited.
It would be odd to introduce any of the provisions I am thinking of through this Bill and the Minister of State's Department, so that is fine and welcome.
The reason for the amendment relates to the fact the original wording of the Bill states that the CCTV cameras “are monitored” by the local authority, which could be interpreted as meaning somebody had to be monitoring them 24 hours a day. On the advice of the Attorney General, we have changed the wording such that it refers to the CCTV being "capable" of being monitored.
The same difficulties arise in respect of justice legislation and the general data protection regulation. I thank the Minister of State.
I might speak to amendments Nos. 56 and 57, which are in this grouping. The Minister of State mentioned the issue of proportionality. If these CCTV cameras are intended to monitor blackspots and act as a deterrent to littering or dumping, the fact that there would be the power to leave them in place for five years raises the question as to what sort of deterrent needs to remain in place for five years. Our amendments will reduce the lifespan of the licence to one year, which could then be renewed. An initial period of five years seems excessive. Will the Minister of State outline the advice he has received in that regard?
There will be an option to review the period earlier if required but, on examining the issue, we decided a five-year period was optimal. As I explained in response to Deputy Farrell, it is a limited power to erect CCTV. To create a scheme, a local authority cannot just install a CCTV system but will have to go through a prescribed number of steps outlined in the Bill. For example, it will have to prepare a site management plan for each scheme and set out the arrangements for monitoring and recording, how it will disclose the images that are produced and how it will preserve the recordings. All of that is intended to comply with data protection rules and the Data Protection Commissioner has been extensively consulted in the drawing-up of the legislation. Moreover, a data protection impact assessment must be carried out in accordance with section 84 of the Data Protection Act 2018, which is an onerous task, and there is an overhead associated with that. In addition, for each proposed scheme the relevant local authority has to be satisfied the scheme is proportionate to the enforcement and deterrence needs identified at the proposed site and that it meets the data protection requirements.
There is a mandatory code of practice, which will be drafted in consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner and will ensure relevant data protection legislation is complied with during the authorisation and operational use of these technologies. The code of practice will be subject to approval by the Minister. A combination of legislation, non-statutory guidance and the use of mandatory codes of practice are the measures that are being put in place to ensure the processing of personal data may be carried out by local authorities trying to enforce litter and waste law, while meeting GDPR requirements and addressing the concerns raised by the Data Protection Commission. There has been a long and detailed consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner in relation to the drafting of these provisions and all concerns raised by the Data Protection Commission have now been addressed. It is not easy to put these schemes into practice. There are a lot of safeguards around them and so one year would be too short a period of time. That is why we are allowing for a five-year period. I will therefore not be accepting the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 53 to 55, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 53:
In page 25, to delete line 22 and substitute the following:
“(iv) an offence under section 34(10A), or
(v) an offence under section 39(9), in so far as the offence consists of a contravention of a provision of regulations made under section 39(4) prohibiting, other than in accordance with those regulations, the recovery or disposal in a specified manner of a specified class or classes of waste, including a class or classes of household waste,
Fixed payment notices are an administrative alternative to court proceedings and can assist with waste enforcement efforts. They provide an alternative enforcement tool to the courts and a more flexible means of addressing low-level non-compliance, facilitating greater levels of enforcement and increased compliance at local level. We are used to fixed payment notices from traffic laws and so on. The Bill already provides for new fixed payment notices in respect of offences under the waste tyres extended producer responsibility regulations and in respect of breaches of a waste collection permit. These amendments to section 10B of the Waste Management Act 1996 provide for two additional fixed payment notices in relation to existing offences under the Waste Management Act 1996.
First, I have provided for a fixed payment notice for a breach of section 34(10A). Under this section, it is an offence to furnish false or misleading information to a local authority under section 34, which relates to waste collection permits. I am also providing that a local authority may issue a fixed payment notice for non-compliance with a condition in a waste facility permit. The Waste Management Act 1996 provides that a person shall not dispose of, or undertake the recovery of, waste at a facility unless they have a waste licence. Waste licences are issued by the EPA. However, a waste licence is not required if the person carrying out the disposal or recovery of the waste complies with specified conditions in relation to the carrying out of such recovery or disposal. These conditions are set out in waste facility permits. Where a person does not comply with the conditions of a waste facility permit, they are guilty of an offence. The proposed amendment creates a fixed payment notice in respect of a contravention of a condition in a waste facility permit. This may be confusing. A waste facility permit could, for example, be issued to someone who is temporarily storing WEEE waste but not disposing of it before it goes on to another facility for disposal. That is why it is managed through permits rather than licences.
These fixed payment notices are all linked to existing offences under current legislation. I am not creating any new offences. This will facilitate local authorities to impose and provide more proportionate responses to littering and illegal dumping. It also means that the first recourse is not the courts, which could be a more costly proposition for everyone concerned. That is where I am coming from with regard to these amendments.
I move amendment No. 54:
In page 25, line 34, to delete “or” where it secondly occurs.
I move amendment No. 55:
In page 25, to delete line 35 and substitute the following:
“(II) a contravention of section 34(1)(a),
(III) an offence under section 34(10A), or
(IV) an offence under section 39(9), in so far as the offence consists of a contravention of a provision of regulations made under section 39(4) prohibiting, other than in accordance with those regulations, the recovery or disposal in a specified manner of a specified class or classes of waste, including a class or classes of household waste.”.”.
Amendments Nos. 56 and 57 have already been discussed with amendment No. 52.
I move amendment No. 56:
In page 27, line 27, to delete “5 years” and substitute “1 year”.
I will withdraw the amendment on the basis of the Minister of State's comments. However, I ask him to consider our concern. It is a matter of proportionality. I take on board the point that it will be quite arduous to get the licence or authorisation and get the system up and running in the first place. It is a matter of what would be a reasonable timeframe for that to go on for. I ask the Minister of State to consider that.
The use of the cameras would be overt rather than covert. They have to be displayed. The Bill allows for the use of drones, body cameras and so on for serious offences under the Waste Management Act like dumping and fly-tipping but not for littering. It is proportionate. They would not be flying drones over people who are dropping rubbish on the street. Every attempt is to be proportionate. The reason for this section is that local authorities cannot use CCTV at the moment and cannot gather the evidence they need to prevent littering and dumping.
I move amendment No. 57:
In page 27, to delete lines 33 to 36 and substitute the following:
“(ii) shall, not later than 1 year from the date on which the approval in respect of the CCTV scheme was given under subsection (5) and thereafter at intervals of not more than 1 year from the date of the immediately preceding review,”.
Whatever about five years or one year for the extinguishing of the scheme, with regard to the in-built review that is to happen no later than five years after the scheme's introduction, perhaps it would be appropriate for that to be more frequent. I would just make that point again.
I will consider what the Deputy has said.
As we are doing quite well, I propose that we keep going rather than breaking and coming back at 3 p.m.
We might take a very short break.
We will suspend for a few minutes and then hopefully we can finish the Bill.
We will resume in public session.
Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 are related and will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 58:
In page 33, to delete lines 18 to 22 and substitute the following:
"(a) in subsection (6)(b), by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (ix):
"(ix) appropriate qualitative or quantitative indicators and targets, including in respect of any or all of the following:
(I) the quantity of generated waste and its treatment;
(II) municipal waste that is disposed of or subject to energy recovery;
(III) the use of products and materials that have been re-used, re-manufactured or repaired, or any combination thereof;",".
This amendment concerns remanufacturing targets. The waste action plan for a circular economy commits to the inclusion of targets related to reuse and repair in waste management plans. Section 24 places this requirement on a statutory basis by amending section 22 of the Waste Management Act 1996 in order to explicitly provide for the inclusion of targets relating to reuse and repair in waste management plans and that the Minister may specify the quantitative level of such targets where appropriate. Recommendation 27 of the pre-legislative scrutiny report of the committee recommended extending the provision for targets on reuse and repair in section 22 of the Waste Management Act to also include targets for remanufacturing. I mentioned on Second Stage that I would be bringing forward an amendment on Committee Stage to give effect to this recommendation. Amendment No. 58 gives effect to this recommendation of the committee. It also redrafts the existing subparagraph (ix) by dividing it into further subparagraphs for the purpose of clarity. This amendment gives effect to the recommendation of the committee and also achieves the purpose of amendment No. 59. Therefore, I will not accept amendment No. 59.
I will withdraw amendment No. 59 on the basis of amendment No. 58 and consider whether I need to bring forward a further amendment on Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 60 and 61 are related and will be taken together.
I move amendment No. 60:
In page 36, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
"Amendment of section 34C of Act of 1996
27. Section 34C of the Act of 1996 is amended—
(a) in subsection (1), by the substitution of "subsection (7) or (9), or both," for "subsection (7)",
(b) in subsection (3)—
(i) by the substitution of "household waste or commercial waste" for "household waste" in each place where it occurs, and
(ii) by the deletion of "within the meaning of section 66 of the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011",
(c) in subsection (6), by the substitution of "household waste or commercial waste" for "household waste",
(d) in subsection (7), by the substitution of "household waste or commercial waste" for "household waste",
(e) in subsection (8), by the substitution of "household waste or commercial waste" for "household waste",
(f) by the insertion of the following subsections after subsection (8):
"(9) A local authority may establish and maintain a register of postcodes in respect of addresses in its functional area from which household waste or commercial waste is not—
(a) collected by an authorised waste collector,
(b) deposited at a waste facility, or
(c) otherwise disposed of or treated in accordance with this Act,
for the purposes of establishing compliance by original producers and other waste holders with section 32(1A) and any regulations or bye-laws made under this Act in relation to household waste or commercial waste.
(10) A local authority may, in performing its functions under this Act, use—
(a) the information specified in subsection (3)(a) that is provided to the local authority under subsection (2), and
(b) such data as is contained in a postcode database referred to in subparagraph (i) of paragraph (g) of section 65A(2) of the Act of 2011 that is provided to it pursuant to a licence referred to in the
said paragraph (g),
for the purposes of establishing and maintaining a register under subsection (9).
(11) Where a local authority proposes to establish and maintain a register under subsection (9) in respect of its functional area, the chief executive of the local authority concerned shall satisfy himself or herself that the establishment and maintenance of the register is proportionate to, and necessary for, the purposes for which the register is to be so established and maintained.
(12) The chief executive of a local authority in respect of whose functional area a register is established and maintained under subsection (9)—
(a) may, at any time, and
(b) shall, not later than 5 years from the establishment of the register and thereafter at intervals of not more than 5 years from the date on which the chief executive was informed of the outcome of the
immediately preceding review in accordance with subsection (13)(b),
cause a review of the register to be carried out by an authorised person.
(13) An authorised person carrying out a review pursuant to subsection (12) shall—
(i) whether the register has been established and maintained, and the information contained therein used, in accordance with the guidance issued, revised or re-issued by the Minister under subsection (16),
(ii) the extent to which the maintenance of, and use of the information contained in, the register during the period in respect of which the review is being conducted has been, and remains, successful, proportionate and necessary having regard to the purposes for which the register has been established, and
(iii) such other matters that he or she considers appropriate having regard to the purposes for which the register has been established and is maintained,
(b) shall inform the chief executive, in writing, of the outcome of that review.
(14) Without prejudice to subsection (15), following a review carried out pursuant to subsection (12), the chief executive of the local authority shall decide whether the register is to continue to be maintained and where the chief executive decides that the register is to continue to be maintained, subsections (12) and (13) shall, with any necessary modifications, apply in respect of the register as so continued.
(15) The chief executive may at any time decide that a register established under subsection (9) is no longer to be maintained and, subject to Part 5 of the Data Protection Act 2018, where the chief executive so decides, the local authority shall cease to maintain the register.
(16) The Minister shall issue guidance for the purpose of assisting local authorities in the establishment and maintenance of a register referred to in subsection (9) and the appropriate use of the information contained in such a register and may from time to time revise or re-issue that guidance.
(17) A local authority shall have regard to any guidance issued, revised or re-issued under subsection (16).
(18) (a) In establishing a register referred to in subsection (9), a local authority shall consult with its data protection officer and shall ensure that a data protection impact assessment within the meaning of section 84 of the Data Protection Act 2018 is carried out in accordance with that section.
(b) A local authority shall ensure that any such register is maintained, and the information contained therein is used, in compliance with Part 5 of the Data Protection Act 2018.
(19) In this section—
'Act of 2011' means the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011;
'chief executive' has the same meaning as it has in section 2 of the Local Government Act 2001;
'data protection officer' has the meaning given to it by section 88(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018;
'postcode' has the meaning given to it by section 66 of the Act of 2011;
'postcode database’ has the meaning given to it by section 65A(1) of the Act of 2011.".".
As the committee will be aware, the general scheme of the Bill as approved by the Government provides for the establishment of a GDPR-compliant register of households without a waste collection service. During the debate on Second Stage, I mentioned that it was not possible to complete the necessary consultation process required to introduce these provisions at the time of publication of the Bill and that I intended to introduce them by way of amendment on Committee Stage. Amendment No. 60 provides for the creation by local authorities of a database of postcodes in respect of addresses that do not avail of a waste collection service.
Currently section 34C(7) of the Waste Management Act 1996 provides for the creation of registers by local authorities of premises that either avail of a waste collection service or deposit waste at a facility. This register, which is compiled from data submitted to local authorities by waste operators, facilitates the monitoring of services provided and that the waste holder and the service provider are complying with regard to obligations. Amendment No. 60 provides that local authorities may use the information provided to them for the purpose of the existing register under section 34C together with information provided via the Eircode database to establish a register of Eircodes in respect of addresses that do not avail of a waste collection service, do not deposit their waste at a facility or do not have their waste otherwise disposed of or treated in accordance with the Waste Management Act. This register will be a register of Eircodes only. No personalised data will held in the database. The purpose of the database is to allow local authorities to direct efforts in filling in service gaps in a more focused manner. It is expected that the majority of householders have measures in place to dispose of their waste. Many will have a waste collection service while others may deposit their waste at facilities or share a collection service with a neighbour or relative. This amendment will allow local authorities to focus enforcement efforts on the very few householders who do not legally dispose of their waste.
It was clear from the debate on Second Stage that all Deputies are concerned with tackling illegal dumping. This provision gives key support to local authorities in their enforcement activities. The database will contain Eircodes only - not the names and addresses of individual householders. Local authorities will still need to contact or visit the address related to that Eircode to establish how the householder deals with their waste. The householder will then be in a position to advise the local authority as to how they dispose of or treat their waste in accordance with the Act.
The advantage of this provision is that it allows for focused and targeted enforcement by local authorities and makes more efficient and effective use of local authority resources. During the drafting of this amendment, my officials had formal and detailed discussions with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. It is a key concern of mine that this data is not misused and that privacy rights of citizens are protected. Following discussions with the Data Protection Commission, a number of changes were made to the original draft in the general scheme to address concerns of the commission regarding the establishment of the database. These changes included the limitation of the Eircode database to the local authority functional area, the requirement for the approval of the chief executive of the local authority for the establishment of the database, a statutory requirement that the register is proportionate and necessary for the purposes for which it is established, provision for reviews of the operation of the database and an obligation on the Minister to issue guidelines to local authorities on the use of the database. A data protection impact assessment must also be carried out when a database is established and the register must be maintained in compliance with Part 5 of the Data Protection Act 2018.
The Data Protection Commissioner has considered the final text of this amendment and may have no further observations. My officials have also engaged closely with the local government sector, which is also very supportive of the amendment. Finally, I have provided that the amendment to section 34C will apply to commercial and household waste rather than just household waste. This was recommended in the pre-legislative scrutiny report and I was happy to accept the committee's recommendation in this regard. I am satisfied that this amendment provides necessary and proportionate support for local authorities in their enforcement activities and I believe it also provides robust legal protections for the privacy rights of citizens. I ask the committee to support this amendment.
As Deputy Bríd Smith is not present, amendment No. 61 cannot be moved.
I move amendment No. 62:
In page 41, line 15, after "monitored" to insert ", or are capable of being monitored,".
I move amendment No. 63:
In page 47, line 9, after "Minister" to insert "or the Government".
This is a drafting amendment that will correct the omission of the words "or the Government" from section 32(12) of the Bill. This subsection will now provide that the code of practice shall be published on a website maintained by or on behalf of the Minister or the Government rather than by or on behalf of the Minister only. This is standard wording for provisions of this kind and it brings the wording in section 32(12) into line with the wording in section 22(12).
As Deputy Bríd Smith is not present, amendments Nos. 64 and 65 cannot be moved.
I have a question. I received some very late correspondence from people making the case that the levy for landfill and the levy for waste to energy should not be set at the same level. I do not know the substance of the case, but perhaps the Minister of State could provide a note on the issue for members.
That is one more note. It is noted.
There is loads of homework for the Minister of State.