This is a very big deal for us here at VOICE!

We have been campaigning for the eradication of these problematic Single Use Plastic items for a very long time. Our Sick of Plastic Campaign has a live petition calling for these exact items to be banned here in Ireland, and this month, our demands became a reality.

What is it?

Single-use plastic products (SUPs) are defined as products that are used once, or for a short period of time, before being thrown away. The 10 most commonly found single-use plastic items are estimated to represent 70% of all marine litter in the EU.

Agreed upon in 2019 by EU Member States, the Single-Use Plastics Directive sets strict rules aimed at reducing this ubiquitous variety of products and packaging. Where alternatives are affordable and accessible, the Directive requires that SUPs be banned from the market. For other products, efforts are focussed on limiting their use through design and labelling, and the imposition of clean-up obligations on who manufacture them. Ireland, along with all other Member States, was required to transpose the SUP Directive by 3 July 2021.  

Ireland’s Progress

We are happy to report that regulations giving effect to these provisions were signed into law by Minister Eamon Ryan on 2 July 2021. Hence, as of 3 July, the following single-use plastic items are banned for sale:

  • Cotton bud sticks
  • Cutlery
  • Plates
  • Stirrers
  • Chopsticks
  • Straws
  • Expanded polystyrene single use food and beverage containers
  • All oxo-degradable plastic products

A host of other significant changes to Irish plastic policy will be ushered in by the SUP Directive:

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for cups and their covers and lids, food containers, plastic bottles, plastic bags, packets and wrappers, wet wipes, balloons and filters on or for tobacco products will come into effect from 31 December 2024. EPR schemes are key in making the producers of the product responsible the cleaning up litter that results from it being placed on the market.  

Plastic bottles will be required to have tethered lids and caps from 3 July 2024. Plastic bottles must also be made of at least 25% recycled plastic by 2025 and at least 30% recycled plastic by 2030.

The Rethink Plastic alliance and the Break Free From Plastic movement have released an assessment of each EU Member States transposition of the SUP Directive, and it is encouraging to read their conclusion that “no measure was overlooked” by Ireland.  

Above and beyond

Ireland is planning to introduce additional measures to the ones required under the Directive. Bans on non-medical wet wipes, single-use sachets and hotel toiletries are being planned in the next year. A national DRS for both PET bottles and cans should be in place by the end of 2022, to achieve the 90% collection target. To foster consumption reduction, reduction targets are being considered for packaging and overpackaging, to significantly reduce single-use plastics being placed on the market by 2026, with a draft legislation due later in 2021. A “latte levy” will be in place as of 2022 to incentivize the consumption reduction of single-use cups as well as a ban for restaurant use of disposable cups, before a full ban on disposable cups enters in force in the longer run.  

A positive development

Less SUP production means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It is also key in reducing marine litter, thereby helping to protect our precious coastlines and ocean ecosystems. SUP levies should incentivise conscious consumption, while also having the added benefit of raising revenue to support research and development and fund more effective waste collection systems.

We at VOICE will keep the pressure on, to make sure we are doing more than just removing the low hanging fruit. This is great news for Ireland, but there is still a lot more to do. Join us for updates as to how this directive is being implemented here and other plastic related stories.

By Sean Mc Loughlin