Ireland will introduce ambitious new targets to tackle waste and move towards a circular economy under a new plan announced today by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Eamon Ryan TD. The plan includes halving our food waste by 2030, the introduction of a deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and cans, a ban on certain single-use plastics from July 2021, and a levy on disposable cups. Other measures include applying green criteria and circular economy principles in all public procurement, a waste recovery levy to encourage recycling, and ensuring all packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2030.
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. This action-focused plan will place Ireland at the vanguard of EU efforts. This new policy will require us to move beyond a position of merely managing waste, to where we question our use of resources and materials, how to reconsider product design to reduce waste generation and how we extend the productive life of the goods and products that we use.
Speaking today (Friday 4 September), Minister Ryan said:
“We all know that our current model of production and consumption is unsustainable in terms of resource use, waste disposal, climate change and loss of biodiversity. What we need to do is rethink our relationship with our stuff – how we produce it, use it and dispose of it. This plan sets out how we will go about that in a way that benefits people and the planet.”
This new circular economy will also present opportunities – in job creation and long term sustainability.
“Every sector, every household, every business, and organisation across Ireland has a role to play in the transition to a circular economy”, said Minister Ryan. “Through increased awareness, better-informed consumption decisions and buy-in to shared responsibility, Ireland can become a leader in this field delivering environmental, social and economic benefits.”
The overarching objectives in the action plan are:
- To shift the focus away from waste disposal and treatment to ensure that materials and products remain in productive use for longer – thereby preventing waste and supporting re-use through a policy framework that discourages the wasting of resources and rewards circularity;
- To make producers who manufacture and sell disposable goods for profit environmentally accountable for the products they place on the market;
- To ensure that measures support sustainable economic models (for example by supporting the use of recycled over virgin materials);
- To harness the reach and influence of all sectors including the voluntary sector, R&D, producers/manufacturers, regulatory bodies, civic society;
- To support clear and robust institutional arrangements for the waste sector, including through a strengthened role for local authorities.
Some of the measures can be implemented immediately. Others require legislative or institutional change. The Minister recently signed three Regulations transposing EU Directives which will form the legislative foundation for Circular Economy provisions, while a new Waste Management (Circular Economy) Bill will be introduced for national measures. The work of the cross-sectoral Waste Advisory Group which has assisted in developing this plan will move now towards supporting its implementation.