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 will probably repeat the two previous Deputies' comments. I have probably not been here as long as some of the members present. I have been here about two years now, since 2016, but I am seeing a pattern. Everything cannot be done until it is being done. We see a lot of resistance again today. I respect entirely the mandates of the organisations that all the witnesses represent and the concerns they have. They are well voiced and, I am sure, well founded, but where there is a will there is a way, and perhaps that is the attitude we need to have to these kinds of environmental challenges that face us more and more now. When my party introduced the plastic bag levy, perhaps 15 years ago or more, such concerns were probably raised as well. We got over them and got on with it. I think the public is very accepting, possibly more so at times than the institutions and organisations, of what needs to be done, and they got on board with it in the case of the plastic bag levy.
Mr. Walker's comments about scavenging in bins caught my imagination as well. They painted an apocalyptic scenario and reminded me of watching "The Walking Dead" on Netflix, a programme in which people upturn bins on the streets and scavenge, prowling by night trying to find what might be around. I do not remember the 5p scheme in Ireland but I did live briefly in Amsterdam for one summer and was very familiar with what they had, which was a bottle deposit scheme, as opposed to a plastic deposit scheme. Every morning I was nearly run down by bicycles whizzing past with crates full of empties sorted for collection and return. It worked extremely well and was an incentive. I did not see anyone scavenging or upturning bins but I did see plenty of people on their way to the various collection centres every day.
On that note, I think it was Mr. Burke who mentioned the possibility that the collection centres may be outside towns and may somehow contribute to the demise of our town centres, a risk with which we are all familiar. However, I am not sure about that. I appreciate the witnesses must cover all bases, but I think it may be a stretch to associate the demise of town centres with the location of collection centres. We already have plenty of bring centres, and I have been involved in working to bring them into many places in my area. I see the Bill in the same vein and consider that collection centres can be complementary to existing facilities. They do not have to be brand new centres.
Regarding compostable cups and whether they can be composted at home, I think the brown bin could take a great many things. I am familiar with one company, Zeus packaging, which has kindly given us samples. They seem to work perfectly well and seem to be compostable. I know they can go into the brown bin. The technology and the products are already there. It remains to support them in the marketplace.
It was very interesting to hear Dr. Dominic Hogg's comments and it is very illustrative for us to hear how other jurisdictions deal with this issue. If I understood his contribution, various other jurisdictions have grappled with this and similar concerns and questions have been raised but they have been overcome satisfactorily. It would be very interesting to pursue that a little further and see how exactly that was done.
Going back to what I said at the start, the point of Committee Stage, amendments and Report Stage is to thrash these things out. It is really useful to have a discussion on this here, but rather than parking it and saying we cannot proceed because of these questions, I would say let us take the answers to these questions and put them into amendments and proceed on that basis.