The European Commission has today outlined new plans to cut down on single-use plastics and reduce marine plastic pollution.
The new EU-wide rules proposed by the Commission target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.
This will include an outright ban on the likes of plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons where alternatives are readily available and affordable.
Within Europe, Ireland is currently the top producer of plastic waste, producing 61kg of plastic waste per person each year.
The new rules also aim to ensure that Member States reduce their use of single-use plastic cups and containers by ensuring such products cannot be provided free of charge.
Member States will also be “obliged” to collect 90 per cent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025.
The Commission is pushing for levies on coffee cups, similar to the plastic bag levy in Ireland, and nationwide deposit refund schemes to achieve these aims.
The Commission’s proposals will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption and aim to deliver results before European elections in May 2019.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, TD welcomed the move, adding that the Commission’s proposals are a “mirror image” of those in his party’s Waste Reduction Bill.
The Bill is proposing a 15 cent ‘latte levy’ on plastic cups to fund a new compostable litter collection system, as well as the introduction of a nationwide deposit refund scheme.
Last year, the Minister for the Environment, Denis Naughten, TD called for such a tax on all disposable coffee cups in a bid to reduce the volume of plastic waste.
The Oireachtas Environment Committee voted last week on the wording of the Waste Reduction Bill after holding several hearings in recent months.
An amendment from Mr Naughten to allow for a pilot deposit-return scheme rather than a mandatory national scheme was voted down.
The amendment proposed that the Minister would have the discretion to introduce a DRS following a potential pilot-scheme in Cashel, Co Tipperary.
According to Mr Ryan, the Government has opposed his party’s Bill “every step of the way” but should now “change tack” after the Commission’s latest move.
“Our Government needs to wake up and smell the coffee. They need to stop blocking our legislation and start getting on the right side of the new sustainable economy that is rapidly evolving.”