We are all sick of plastic.
Everyday in Ireland we use more than 500,000 plastic-lined coffee cups that can't be recycled, more than 2 million plastic bottles that don't get recycled, and supermarkets foist more and more packaging on us. Meanwhile, micro-plastics are making the fish we eat sick, and if we keep going the way we are, plastic waste will outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050.
But there are solutions.
Waste Reduction Bill
A Dáil Committee has backed a Waste Reduction Bill that contains the measures we are calling for.
The Waste Reduction Bill would give Ireland the chance to lead in tackling plastic waste. But the former climate minister Denis Naughten was using an underhand parliamentary trick to block the bill.
Now, we have a great opportunity to persuade the new climate minister, Richard Bruton, to allow the Bill move forward.
The Bill (draft law) would introduce a deposit on plastic bottles, which would be refunded when you bring the bottle back for recycling. In countries where they have a scheme like this recycling rates are as high as 98%. We had a deposit and refund scheme for glass bottles in the past. It's time to do it for plastic.
We know producers and retailers are lobbying hard *against* a deposit and return scheme because they say it would be inconvenient or too expensive. Independent research shows the scheme would cost about 1c per bottle. We need to show that people really want to see action on plastic and don't want supermarkets and big business dragging their heels.
The Bill would introduce a 'latte levy' on single-use coffee cups to encourage reuse. Your average coffee cup has an inner plastic lining, and therefore cannot be recycled. Many cafés have joined the Conscious Cup Campaign and offer customers a discount, double loyalty points, or like coffeeangel do, make a donation to Friends of the Earth every time someone brings a reusable cup.
The EU Parliament have voted in favour of banning some of the most problematic single use plastic items including plates, cutlery and straws. The waste reduction bill includes this to ensure Ireland follows suit to phase out the use of single use plastics.
Separately, the Government has promised a ban on micro-plastics before the end of the 2018 but they have been slow to bring forward legislation to progress the opposition Bill that is waiting for a Dáil Committee to make time to consider it.
What Irish supermarkets can do
We've written to the CEO's of big supermarket chains asking them to take these six steps:
- Offer more items without packaging, such as fruit and vegetables (without plastic trays, wrapping and nets).
- Make their own-brand packaging easily compostable or recyclable, and use less plastic.
- Demand, through their purchasing power, that other brands they carry have easily compostable or recyclable packaging, and use less plastic.
- Blaze a trail in Ireland by implementing a plastic free aisle, as has been done in the Netherlands.
- Provide items in bulk, where possible, to reduce packaging.
- Allow shoppers use their own containers to buy dried goods, buying only what they need.