Single-use coffee cups to be hit with 20c levy ‘later this year’

Circular economy legislation will also promote use of CCTV to combat fly tipping

A 20c levy on disposable coffee cups is expected to come into effect by the fourth quarter of this year, according to Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Ossian Smyth.

Levies against a range of single-use items will be charged under legislation approved by cabinet on Tuesday. The law will also see the increased use of CCTV to combat fly tipping, among other environmental measures.

Mr Smyth said the aim of the disposable cup levy was not to raise money but to change consumer habits.

“I am hoping that there a reduction [in use of single-use cups] that people will switch. The levy is going to be 20c for a start.”

The environmental levies on the single-use items will be ringfenced and put into a circular economy fund - and the rate of the levy will be set out in regulations after the bill is passed later this year.

The legislation also envisages mandatory segregation and an incentivised charging regime for commercial waste, as exists in the household market - currently, commercial premises can dispose of their waste through a single, unsegregated bin.

The use of security cameras to deter illegal dumping has been curtailed by data protection laws which limit their use under strict European digital privacy laws called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

However, the Government says the circular economy bill provides for the GDPR-compliant use of a range of technologies, including CCTV, for waste enforcement purposes - while “protecting the privacy rights of citizens”.

“This will help to discourage fly tipping, which is a blight across the country,” the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications said in a statement. It said the aim of the bill would be to shift from its current model to a more sustainable patter of production and consumption that minimises waste - the so-called “circular economy”.

Disposable products

Mr Smyth said the legislation “aims to stop the wasteful pattern of using valuable resources once and then just binning them. From discouraging the use of single-use items, to improving the process for allowing recycled materials onto the market, this legislation will support the development of sustainable products and business models across the economy”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Smyth said there would be plenty of time over the summer for people to get used to having a “keep cup”.

“I have a collapsible keep cup that goes flat in to my pocket and also smaller ones for a flat white. There is a lot of practical ways to do this. It doesn’t have to be a big difficulty,” he said.

“It is very similar to the plastic bag levy. People will remember when that came in we were using a giant number of plastic bags and after the levy came in the reduction was 95 percent in the use of plastic bags.”

The bill also aims to give legal effect to the programme for government commitment to end new licenses for the exploration and extraction of gas - the Department said it “effectively calls time” on coal exploration by ending the issuing of new licenses for the exploration and mining of coal, lignite and oil shale.

The bill also seeks to support the increases use of recycled or reused materials in the Irish market. It will, for the first time, define the circular economy in Irish law.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said the publication was a "landmark moment".

“Through a mix of economic incentives and smarter regulation we can achieve far more sustainable patterns of production and consumption that move us away from the patterns of single-use and throw-away materials and goods that are such a wasteful part of our economic model now,” he said.