Naughten announces new measures on curbing plastics

However, proposed levy on non-recyclable coffee cups will not be introduced

Minister for Communications Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Denis Naughten said he was looking at recommendations in the new EU Plastic Strategy for national administrations to see what else could be delivered in a short timeframe.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Communications Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Denis Naughten said he was looking at recommendations in the new EU Plastic Strategy for national administrations to see what else could be delivered in a short timeframe. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

A levy on non-recyclable coffee cups is not going to be introduced in Ireland, the Minster for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten has confirmed in a significant U-turn.

The Minister last year flagged his intention to impose a levy on single-use coffee cups containing plastic to eliminate vast volumes of unrecyclable waste. However, in the Dáil on Wednesday, he said this would not now happen as retailers were moving to replace their non-recyclable cups with compostable cups.

But the possibility of introducing other levies on “single-use” plastic items – such as cutlery, drinking straws and bottles – is now being considered, he confirmed.

In addition, he announced his department is to set up a pilot scheme to examine how a “deposit and return scheme” (DRS) for plastic drinks containers might operate and its likely impacts.

The Government is also to introduce “substantial increases” in fines for litter pollution.

“In order to support the elimination of single-use plastic cups by industry, I do not intend to introduce a levy on compostable cups,” he said.

‘Constructive engagement’

The other levies would be introduced “unless there is constructive engagement by industry with my department to eliminate these environmentally damaging plastic items”, he added.

He said he was looking at recommendations in the new EU Plastic Strategy for national administrations to see what else could be delivered in a short timeframe. “Already many of the measures recommended in the strategy are well embedded into Irish resource management,” he added.

These measures included the existing “extended producer responsibility” schemes run by Repak and the Irish Farm Films and Plastics Group, the landfill levy, the plastic bag levy, as well as robust enforcement around illegal dumping and landfilling.

“Although I am pleased consecutive annual national litter pollution monitoring surveys have shown the litter situation has been generally improving across the country, I am still concerned that the 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.”

‘Used as a resource’

Similarly, consumers needed to be supported in their efforts to do the right thing around plastic recycling, he said. The recent national recycling list and recycling ambassadors’ programme “try to ensure these valuable materials are used as a resource for our communities and economy rather than being wasted”.

Having asked the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to look at the merits of a DRS at a national level, he looked forward to working with the committee when they had delivered their 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 deposit and refund in an Irish context,” he said.