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
I thank all the witnesses for their presentations and thoughtful contributions. I recognise that they are all here with some degree of vested interest depending on whom they represent, but the one vested interest that does not get enough recognition is the environment. It falls on us, as legislators, to try to craft and develop a series of legislative measures that force industry to respect and protect the environment.
The organisations before the committee today, particularly IBEC, represent industry and receive contributions from their companies annually. They represent those companies that want to sell their products. However, producers have not done enough to reduce the amount of packaging that ultimately ends up as waste. While we can clap ourselves on the back and claim we have achieved phenomenal results in the amount of materials we recycle, the volume has grown dramatically. It is possible to use statistics in whatever way one wants.
Like many other people I often walk the roads for enjoyment. During the winter period the amount of material that is disposed of into the ditches along our roadways has increased significantly. It is appalling how that has increased in recent times. Clapping ourselves on the back and claiming we are recycling much more material does not resolve that. We know from others about the amount of material that is disposed of into our waterways that ultimately damages aquatic life. It shows up in rivers as well as along our beaches, and we know the impact it has on the international seas. We need to take legislative measures to some extent almost disregarding what the industry is looking for because it will always push back and want to protect the producers. Unless we put serious measures in place to protect the environment and speak up for the environment, we will not see the kind of change we need.
I have great regard for what Repak does, but it is an industry representative group. Mr. Clancy is right in saying the recycling industry employs people and naturally enough there is a lobby group to protect the recycling industry as we know it. However, we need to find legislative measures to reduce and eliminate to the greatest extent possible the amount of waste material that ends up being discarded. I was struck by points made by one of the previous speakers that we are relatively good at recycling within the home, the commercial environment etc., but the disposable society we have and the amount of materials that are disposed of really is having a huge impact, and we need to look for other ways.
I note the rejection from the Department and I accept that there are European issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps we would introduce some pilot projects that would not contravene the overall national policy, that would help to deal with what Ms Buckley says in terms of testing the viability of these initiatives, and which would get to inform policy into the future. We can be imaginative rather than just pushing back and pulling down.
Let us work together collectively in the interests of the environment.