Government’s ‘ambitious’ environment plan will see plastic cutlery ban by mid-2021

A new plan unveiled banning the likes of plastic cutlery by mid-2021, halving food waste, and having fully recyclable packaging by 2030 will make Ireland an environmental leader in Europe by “really stepping up to the plate”.

That is according to Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Eamon Ryan, who was speaking at the launch of the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy.

He said the “ambitious” plan also included the introduction of a deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and cans, and a levy on disposable cups.

Other measures include applying green criteria and circular economy principles in all public procurement, and a waste recovery levy to encourage recycling.

The concept of “fast fashion”, or cheap clothing bought with short-term lifespans, could face levies in the future to encourage more sustainable clothing and fewer consumer clothing purchases, department officials said.

Bulk-buying and multi-buying in stores was leading to unnecessary food waste, and could be subject to levies to disincentivise the practice, they added.

The circular economy refers to keeping materials and resources in use for as long as possible through recycling, reusing components for other purposes, and regenerating products at the end of life.

The new plan will also lead to new jobs and opportunities in the sustainability sector, Mr Ryan insisted.

“We have a whole new waste plan for the country that is green, circular, and efficient. It is one that is agreed with industry, environmental NGOs, consumer organisations – that stakeholder engagement carried out, particularly through the Covid pandemic in the last few months, actually gives me real confidence that this will affect real change and allow us to be one of the leading countries in Europe in meeting and delivery this new circular economy,” he said.

The plan was tackling problems at source and not putting blame on consumers, he said.

“It’s by design eliminating waste at the start and making it easy to avoid waste, and it is also requiring greater producer responsibility, right through the supply chain.

“It’s low carbon. It’s critical that we achieve these ambitious targets around increased recycling and reduced consumption. It is also good economic news, it is going to be employment-rich, it makes for less litter, a cleaner local environment and it is going to work. We are really stepping up to the plate now.”

A deposit and refund scheme, which adds a tax on product consumption with money back when the product or packaging was returned for recycling, would be supported by the Irish people, he claimed.

“The throwaway can or bottle culture will change,” he said.

The department said the plan would put Ireland at the vanguard of EU efforts.

“By 2050, we will need three planet earths to meet our resource demands in a business-as-usual scenario. A transition to a circular economy offers the possibility of a sustainable alternative future and is a fundamental step towards achieving climate targets,” it said.

An overarching objective is to shift the focus away from waste disposal and treatment to ensure that materials and products remain in productive use for longer and to make producers for-profit environmentally accountable, the department sa