Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Scrutiny of the Waste Reduction Bill 2017
Mr. Séamus Clancy:
I thank the committee for the invitation to speak. I will give a synopsis of our submission as I will share my time with my colleague, Dr. Pat McCloughan. While we strongly disagree with some aspects of the Bill, we acknowledge the positive social intentions behind it and why it was tabled. As strong advocates for advancing this matter we believe this is a timely debate, particularly in the context of the EU’s circular economy plastics strategy that was announced yesterday. Ireland, as one of the 27 member states, has had major input into that in the last two years and has been actively involved in developing this particular paper which has been produced by the Commission.
Repak is the predominant route of compliance in Ireland. It was set up in 1997 under the Waste Management Act. It is not-for-profit. Repak represents 2,300 businesses and charges fees to its members in accordance with the amount and type of packaging they place on the market and reflects the recycling available in those areas.
In the last 20 years, we have put €400 million into the recycling of packaging in the country, bringing it from 15% to 91%. We increased the amount of packaging recycled overall from 794,000 in 2016 to an expected 804,000 tonnes for 2017.
The money is spent on subsidising the green bin to the tune of €64 per tonne. It subsidises the 1,848 bottle bank sites and 118 civic amenity sites for the recycling and recovery of packaging from all those sites. Repak also has an educational mandate and spends almost €1 million on this annually. I will not refer to targets, to which Dr. Tom Ryan already referred. We support almost 5,000 jobs within the recycling industry. We have been a significant contributor on behalf of industry since the regulations were introduced.
I will cover two key points. We broadly support the Bill on what it endeavours to do regarding coffee cups. It is important that a technical assessment is carried out to determine precisely what is needed in the area because there is considerable confusion between non-compostable and compostable coffee cups and the alternatives. We recommend that the committee examines this.
We are fundamentally opposed to the deposit return scheme as it has been presented and think there are major issues associated with it. It is important to note that we do not have a major beverage container problem but we have a major plastic recycling problem, particularly in regard to infrastructure in Ireland and Europe. It is important that those two facts are not confused. We do not believe that a deposit return scheme will have any noticeable impact on the recycling rate for beverage containers which make up about 4% of all packaging. We think a deposit return scheme would be extremely difficult to operate. It is important to carry out a cost benefit analysis on this. To put a deposit return scheme in place on top of an existing recycling scheme such as Repak would lead to unnecessary duplication of collection infrastructure, duplication of transport, increase traffic pollution, wasteful use of energy and have a negative carbon impact.