Fine Gael Senator calls for deposit return scheme for plastic bottles

Published by Niall Sargent on

February 19th, 2018

A Fine Gael Senator has outlined support for a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, despite her party’s opposition to the policy in legislation currently before the Oireachtas environment committee.

Earlier today, Senator Catherine Noone said that Ireland should follow in the footsteps of numerous Scandinavian countries, US states, and Germany by introducing a deposit return system on plastic bottles.

Ms Noone said that such a move would put Ireland on the path to “becoming a leader in plastic recycling” within Europe.

Ireland is currently the top producer of plastic waste in Europe, producing 61kg of plastic waste per person each year. This is 9kg more than the second worst offender, Luxembourg.

“By incentivising recycling we can make a real impact on the amount of waste we produce as a society,” Ms Noone added.

“We have a responsibility to provide a sustainable future to coming generations, caring for the environment is one way we can do this and recycling plastic can play a key role in that endeavour.”

The Fine Gael-led Government, however, is reluctant to introduce a deposit-and-return scheme as laid out in the Green Party’s Waste Reduction Bill currently before the Environment Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.

During a Dáil debate last July, Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten claimed that such a scheme would be more expensive than Green Party estimates.

“Without a complete understanding of the cost implications on the taxpayer, on employers, on retailers and on customers it would be financially reckless of me to proceed with its introduction here without proper scrutiny,” the Minister added.

Plastic Bottles Photo: Daniel Orth

Environmentalists welcome Senator support

The Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 28 national environmental organisations – welcomed Senator Noone’s support for the “progressive policy”.

The Pillar said that the Government should go further and bring in additional measures, including a levy on all single-use non-compostable items similar to the plastic bag levy.

Co-Director of the Sick of Plastic Campaign, Mindy O’Brien said that it was great to see a Fine Gael Senator supporting the scheme and called on her party to support the Green Party’s Bill.

“Her party colleague, Hildegarde Naughton, is chairing the Committee that will decide whether to proceed with Green Party’s Waste Reduction Bill 2017 to introduce a deposit scheme. Does Senator Noone’s statement mean that Fine Gael will now support the Bill?” Ms O’Brien added.

Co-Director of the Sick of Plastic Campaign, Oisin Coghlan, said that Fine Gael now needs to decide if it supports the Bill or now.

The Sick of Plastic campaign aims to reduce single-use plastic waste in Ireland by campaigning for a ban or levy on plastic coffee cups and a deposit and return scheme.

“Vested interests in IBEC and Repak have been resisting the introduction of a deposit scheme for plastic bottles, despite public support for the idea,” Mr Coghlan added.

“Every political party will have to decide which side they are on. So far the Government has been dithering. I hope Fine Gael is now coming off the fence.”

Bottled Water Photo: Daniel Orth

Our Plastic Problem

By 2015, humans produced 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste – equivalent to the mass of 620,000 Eiffel Towers or 60 million blue whales.

A recent study found that only 9 per cent of this plastic waste was recycled and 79 per cent went to landfill or found its way into the environment. The remaining 12 per cent was incinerated.

In a survey released last week, Coastwatch Ireland found that over 80 per cent of surveyed coastal sites contained litter, with an average of 18 plastic bottles found every 500 meters.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London