I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 30 together.
Tackling the negative impact of plastic on our environment is a national and global challenge. I am working with my colleagues in Government and internationally to ensure that Ireland acts to protect our environment and at the same time provides new opportunities in a circular economy. I recently wrote to EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who has responsibility for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, to welcome the European strategy on plastics. I assured him that Ireland will fully embrace the ambition of the new strategy and indeed will strive to go beyond it. In response to the list of measures announced, I asked the Commissioner to focus, in particular, on the more difficult non-recyclable plastics, such as soft wrapping, film and single-use items like coffee cups and plastic cutlery. The Commission has indicated that an announcement will be made next month about its intentions in this area. I believe that this will support EU member states in taking action on single-use items and will result in new legislative proposals to take action at a European market level.
In that context, since I first mooted the introduction of a levy on single-use non-recyclable coffee cups, some retailers are now moving to replace their non-recyclable cups with compostable cups. To support the elimination of single-use plastic cups by industry, I do not intend to introduce a levy on compostable cups. However, I am looking at a range of other potential levies on single-use plastic items, unless there is constructive engagement by industry with my Department to eliminate these environmentally damaging plastic items. I am also looking at the plastic strategy's recommendations for national administrations to see what else can be delivered in a short timeframe. Many of the measures recommended in the strategy are already well-embedded into Irish resource management. These measures include the existing extended producer responsibility schemes run by Repak and the Irish Farm Film Producers Group, the landfill levy, and the plastic bag levy, as well as robust enforcement around illegal dumping and landfilling.
Although I am pleased that consecutive annual national litter pollution monitoring surveys have shown that the litter situation has been generally improving across the country, I am still concerned that fines for offences under the Litter Pollution Acts do not serve as a sufficient deterrent. Therefore, it is my intention to seek Government approval for substantial increases in the near future. Similarly, consumers need to be supported in their efforts to do the right thing around plastic recycling. The recent national recycling list and recycling ambassador programme try to ensure these valuable materials are used as a resource for our communities and economy rather than being wasted. I have asked the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment to look at the merits of a deposit and refund scheme at a national level. I look forward to working with the committee when it delivers its final report. In the meantime, I have asked my officials to set up a pilot scheme. This will allow me assess the likely impacts of the deposit and refund scheme in an Irish context. On marine plastic, my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, will bring in a Bill to prohibit the manufacturing, selling, importing or exporting of cosmetics, personal care products, detergents and scouring agents containing plastic microbeads that are liable to be washed into wastewater systems with the potential to reach our rivers, lakes and seas.