Ireland is changing direction and moving towards a more circular economy.
On the 22nd of July President Michael D. Higgins signed the Circular Economy Bill into law, which will help us to design ways that will keep materials, products and components in use, for as long as possible (reducing waste and moving Ireland away from our current ‘throw away’ mentality).
This act is a culmination of years of hard work for us here at VOICE, and while there is still a lot to do, we can not help but cheer on this monumental moment with gusto. Here is a quick summary of the key parts of the Act, which include the:
- Imposition of levies on single-use items, including disposable cups to eventually phase out single-use packaging.
- Possible bans of single-use packaging(including disposable cups).
-Mandatory reduction and reuse targets for many industrial sectors, including packaging, textiles, retail, construction, agriculture and electrical equipment.
- The Introduction of a Strategy and National Food Loss Prevention Roadmap to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.
- Introduction of mandatory segregation for commercial waste with incentivised pricing, paying more for rubbish than recycling or composting.
- Introduction of CCTV to be used to catch illegal dumpers.
- The prohibition of exploration for and extraction of coal, lignite and oil.
- Legal requirement government to prepare a Circular Economy Strategy.
- The diversion of environmental levies into a Circular Economy Fund to be ring-fenced and used for environmental measures.
More information on the Circular Economy Act can be found HERE.
But there is more to do...
Draft Regulations on the Single Use Disposable Cup Levy will go out for consultation this autumn, with a view to this taking effect before the end of the year. We also anticipate a ban on using disposable cups for in-house consumption.
We envisage pushback from industry around the levy on disposable cups (latte levy). We need you to please contact your TD and show your support for the 20c levy on disposable cups and submit your support to the government during the consultation period (stay tuned and we’ll show you how best to do this).
This Act allows for the provision of industry reuse and reduction targets; however, these targets have not yet been set.
We need to keep the pressure on and make sure any targets set are ambitious enough to make a real difference. It is the packaging that we cannot see (deliveries to restaurants, supermarkets, tertiary packaging (the stuff that is used in transport) that we need to see a big reduction in to make a real and lasting difference.
We need to see investment in reuse infrastructure to support business when it moves to reusable packaging.
While the levy on disposable cups is a great way to spark a reuse revolution we need the government to support the building of a reuse economy that is based on measurable and impactful data. Otherwise, we run the risk of flooding the market with cheap plastic to-go cups (like we see in Germany with their RCup system). We will be pushing for a complete ban of single-use cups at large-scale events (like concerts and festivals) and investment in reusable packaging technology and logistics; to support behavior change at scale.
We have to proactively support the repair sector which keeps products going and encourages the creation of local jobs. We will be pushing for investment in this area.
VOICE will be at the forefront of all of these issues. We will keep you updated on how you can get involved.
This is a very big deal for us here at VOICE. For twenty-five years we have been campaigning and lobbying on behalf of Ireland’s environment; with a view to Ireland managing its natural resources more efficiently and reducing our waste footprint. We are heartened to have the support of so many individuals, communities, and yes, even politicians and civil servants who want the reverse our reliance on disposable items and t make the most of the things we have. Not only will this help us consume better and more sustainably, but it will also have a positive impact on emissions reductions. Making and consuming ‘stuff’ accounts for nearly 50% of our greenhouse emissions.
How have our campaigns helped?
Our campaigns such as The Conscious Cup Campaign (CCC) worked tirelessly for four years getting cafés and restaurants on board with the idea of reusable cups(we now have hundreds of cafés and most of the big brands in Ireland signed up to accept reusable cups). The Journal.ie ran a poll recently that showed that there is widespread support for a 20-cent levy on disposable drink cups. We believe this is in part thanks to the Conscious Cup Campaign and the work it has done educating people about the dangers of so much waste associated with disposable cups (recyclable and compostable included).
Our Sick of Plastic Campaign (jointly facilitated by Friends of the Earth Ireland) has been educating on the many problems around the overuse of plastic and empowering its supporters to take on industry directly and push for a reduction in single-use packaging.
Our Return for Change Campaign has been working hard to make sure the Deposit Return Scheme that Ireland will have up and running at the end of 2023 is both robust and fit for purpose. This has included hosting workshops with elected representatives educating on the benefit of a working DRS and traveling around Ireland with their very own DRS vehicle, showing people exactly how a DRS will work.
Our No Plastic Period Campaign has been educating women on the benefits of reusable menstrual items and lobbying supermarkets to make these items more readily available for customers.
It was not so long ago that thrift, repurposing, reuse and conscientious consumption were a fact of Irish life. Although the shift towards a more disposable society was gradual, we now find ourselves drowning in our own waste; unable to deal with the sheer amount of output we are creating as a nation. We cannot recycle our way out of this mess, but rather we must adopt practices that reduce the creation of waste in the first place and invest in new reuse/refill/repair infrastructure.
VOICE Ireland is leading the charge toward Zero Waste here in Ireland, and through our campaigns and policy work, VOICE has been campaigning for a move away from the current waste model of ‘take, make, waste’ and instead progress Ireland into a different way of thinking that respects the Earth’s planetary boundaries and limited natural resources.