Move to ban single-use plastic not properly costed, say retailers

Litter issue compounded by ‘lack of facilities, contaminated waste and lack of enforcement’

Environmental campaigners hold a demonstration outside the Dáil.

 

Proposals for a ban on single-use plastics items and a “latte levy” to promote use of compostable coffee cups were not properly costed and “poorly evaluated”, a retail group has claimed.

Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, said the proposed legislation did not address a wider litter problem.

He told the Oireachtas Committee on Environment that the problem was compounded by a lack of facilities for recycling, problems with contaminated waste that cannot be re-used, and weaknesses in enforcement of existing laws.

The committee was examining proposals contained in the Green Party’s 2017 Waste Reduction Bill to ban plastic cups, plates and cutlery and to establish a deposit/refund scheme for plastic, glass and aluminium drinks containers. It also proposes a ban on single-use, non-compostable coffee cups.

With millions of coffee cups being produced every day in Ireland, and retailers acting as “a conduit” for such material, there was clearly a problem, Mr Jennings said. It was one that his members wanted to help resolve but not if it heaped extra costs on them, he added.

Contaminated recycling bin (above): Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, told the Oireachtas Committee on Environment that the litter problem was compounded by a lack of facilities for recycling, problems with contaminated waste that cannot be re-used, and weaknesses in enforcement of existing laws. File photograph: Getty Images
Contaminated recycling bin (above): Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, told the Oireachtas Committee on Environment that the litter problem was compounded by a lack of facilities for recycling, problems with contaminated waste that cannot be re-used, and weaknesses in enforcement of existing laws. File photograph: Getty Images

Compostable “tableware” was six times more expensive than alternatives at present, which would translate into higher costs for retailers and consumers, he said.

A deposit return scheme with reverse vending machines for drinks containers would amount to a double tax on his members, who were already part of Repak’s “shared responsibility scheme for waste packaging”, which he said was working effectively.

Scheme must ‘be robust’

If a such a scheme was introduced it had to be robust and it also had to apply to hotels, bars and restaurants, he said.

Eamon Ryan of the Green Party said the prime consideration of the Bill was “single-use plastic”. With just 34 per cent of plastic packaging generated in Ireland currently recycled, “that needs to be increased rapidly”.

The plastic bag levy was a success, but it also “changed public perception about plastic almost overnight”.

Mr Jennings said environmental awareness remained an issue, as people thought nothing of tossing a coffee cup out a car window. There was a need to strengthen enforcement, to increase fines and to “make it very clear that society doesn’t stand for littering”.