January 17th, 2018
Concerned citizens dumped their plastic waste at the Dáil’s door this afternoon in protest over the government’s inaction to tackle plastic pollution.
The demonstration organised by environmental charity VOICE Ireland took place as the Joint Committee on the Environment scrutinised the Green Party’s proposed Waste Reduction Bill.
Launched in June 2017, the Bill calls for an outright ban on single-use non-recyclable plastics such as coffee cups and plastic cutlery by 2020, as well as a deposit and return scheme for beverage containers such as cans and plastic bottles.
Speaking to the Green News from outside the Dáil, VOICE coordinator Mindy O’Brien said that she hoped the protest would make the government realise that there is a “huge support” for action against plastic.
According to a recent PLOS report, there are currently more than five trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans, weighing a whopping 250,000 tons – the same weight as almost 25,000 Dublin buses.
Ireland is the biggest offender of producing plastic waste in the European Union. Irish citizens create 61 kilogrammes per person, per year of plastic waste according to Eurostat figures.
“Something needs to be done to reduce the amount of single-use items put into the market and also strewn around our countryside,” Ms O’Brien explained. She pointed to the likes of a ban on certain types of single-use items and a container levy as potential solutions.
She also called for the development of a deposit refund scheme for drink containers, pointing to success stories in Michigan and Germany who both enjoy return rates on bottles and cans of over 95 per cent.
Sick of Plastic
A petition from VOICE, Uplift and Friend of the Earth Ireland calling for concrete Government action to tackle plastic waste has gathered almost 8,000 signatures, a quarter of which were obtained in the last 24 hours.
Judging by the response to the petition, Friends of the Earth’s Oisin Coghlan said that it is “absolutely clear” that the Irish people are “sick of plastic”. “We have the chance to get politicians to take action right now.”
“We have to press home our advantage before vested interests get their claws into TDs or a crisis or an election derails our chances of progress,” he added.
The creator of the petition, Diane Forsyth, said that her inspiration behind the petition was a holiday to Denmark where she saw how “simple and effective” their deposit refund scheme was.
“There’s practically no roadside rubbish in Denmark and everyone from kids and up actively picks up any litter there is – because they will get a financial reward,” Ms Forsyth added. “It’s worked across Europe for decades now and we’re long past time implementing this scheme in Ireland.”
The Leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan, joined protesters, telling the crowd that he was “confident” previous government opposition to the his party’s Bill will switch given recent international developments.
Mr Ryan pointed to the Chinese government’s recent move to ban the importation of plastic waste and the UK government’s announcement last week on launching a new recycling strategy.
“A number of changes have taken place since it was first introduced last summer which reinforce the case for the bill,” he added.
“We are sick of plastic and we need to let it go”
Oonagh Duggan, Assistant Head of Policy at BirdWatch Ireland said she was outside the Dáil today to support the Green Party and their efforts with the Waste Reduction Bill. Ms Duggan detailed the danger of plastics for Irish Seabirds and the marine environment.
“Often seabirds can mistake small bits of plastic for food and they end up ingesting it. We have seen post-mortem results of certain sea birds with plastic in their stomachs and it’s really devastating,” she added.
“We hope we will get full support from the committee for the Bill and it passes through the rest of the stages at the Dáil, we are sick of plastic and we need to let it go.”