A ban on ‘buy one, get one free’ food deals in supermarkets, levies on cheap clothes and fines for families who don’t separate their rubbish are among sweeping plans by the Government to drastically reduce Ireland’s waste.
Launching the country's national waste policy for the next five years, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Eamon Ryan said it would put Ireland "at the vanguard of EU efforts" to create a greener society.
“We all know that our current model of production and consumption is unsustainable in terms of resource use, waste disposal, climate change and loss of biodiversity,” he said.
“What we need to do is rethink our relationship with our stuff - how we produce it, use it and dispose of it. This plan sets out how we will go about that in a way that benefits people and planet.”
As part of efforts to half Ireland’s food waste by 2030, the Government is mulling a ban on “the sale of multi-buy packs to prevent over-buying” in supermarkets.
Officials could not identify exactly which types of food or products would be targeted, but suggested “buy one get one free” deals and large bags of “20 pieces of fruit selling at well below cost price” as examples.
Research shows supermarket promotions are a “major driver” of food wasted by shoppers as much of it ends up being thrown out, they say.
Use by date
An increasing trend towards “buy one get one free” deals contributes to 30 per cent of food waste, said a spokeswoman for Mr Ryan’s department.
“Obviously any such measures will need to be carefully calibrated to ensure that they do not impact on lower-income households or those who fully use multi-buy offers to feed their families.”
Outlawing the destruction of edible food ahead of its ‘use by’ date and making it easier for retailers to donate unused food is also being considered.
Under the plan, levies would be implemented on “fast fashion”, targeting cheap clothes being sold by large retail chains.
Philip Nugent, assistant secretary in Mr Ryan's department, said the average EU citizen was buying 57 new garments every year, which has consequences for waste generation and the resources required to produce them.
“We are obviously consuming much more than we need to, we are buying much more than we need to,” he said.
The Government is exploring the “potential for the application of economic instruments to affect behavioural change” with regard to fashion habits, he indicated.
“Levies are basically what we are talking about,” he said, citing the landfill and plastic bag taxes as among Ireland’s most successful measures in cutting waste.
As well clothes, textiles include footwear and interior furnishings like carpets, curtains, bedding and furniture. Such materials will also be banned from general waste bins, landfill and incineration.
“Really what we want to encourage here, is for people to buy less frequently, to buy quality rather than quantity,” said Mr Nugent.
Addressing concerns that the measures could hurt poorer people most, he said they would be designed to target only those “over-consuming fast fashion.”
On fining householders for not separating their rubbish properly into different bins, Mr Nugent said “the potential introduction of modest fixed payment notices” could make sure that “behavioural change is driven and properly implemented.”
A figure for the potential fine has not yet been set.
Mr Nugent said he envisaged the fines being issued “infrequently” for “flagrant” breaches of requirements”.
Recent figures from the Environmental Protection Agency suggest a fifth of waste in household recycling bins should not be there, and 70 per cent of waste in commercial general waste bins should be in recycling or organic bins.
A deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and aluminum cans, which rewards consumers for returning them through “reverse vending machines” is to be launched in autumn 2022, after a public consultation starting within weeks.
Single use plastic - including cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, stirrers, chopsticks, straws and polystyrene containers - are to be banned from July next year.
The so-called “latte levy” on the use of disposable cups, to be introduced in 2022, will be followed by an eventual ban to eradicate the 22,000 coffee cups discarded in Ireland every day.
Similar levies on cold drinks, such as soft drinks and beer at concerts and sports events, are also being proposed, while fast food and take away containers, including from service stations and restaurants, will be subject to “environmental levies”.
The Government is also planning to expand the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme , which currently charges makers of electrical goods, tyres and batteries with a role in their eventual disposal.
Tobacco makers will be subject to the scheme by 2023, with makers of balloons, wet wipes and fishing gear included at the end of 2024. Producers of textiles, mattresses, paint, medicines and hazardous farm waste may also be included.
Mr Ryan said the plan shifts responsibility for waste towards producers.
“It is not putting it all on the consumer, it is on the whole industry, the people providing the products have to have a greater responsibility,” he said.
As part of efforts to half the State’s food waste by 2030, the Government is also mulling a ban on the sale of multi-buy packs to prevent overbuying in supermarkets.
Officials could not identify exactly which types of food or products would be targeted in this, but suggested “buy one get one free” food deals and large bags of “20 pieces of fruit at below cost price” as examples.
On the possible fining of householders for not separating their rubbish properly into different bins, Mr Nugent said that “the potential introduction of modest fixed payment notices” could make sure that “behavioural change is driven and properly implemented”.
A figure for the potential fine incurred has not yet been set.
Mr Nugent said he envisaged the fixed penalties being issued “infrequently” for “flagrant” breaches of requirements to segregate waste properly before it is collected by bin companies.