Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Prohibition of Micro-Plastics Bill 2016: Discussion (Resumed)

9:30 am

Photo of Grace O'SullivanGrace O'Sullivan (Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I thank the delegates for their presentations. What concerns me listening to Dr. Mahon is not only the issue of microbeads and microplastics but also the releasing of contaminants. We are not just talking about a marine littoral problem. We are also talking about pollution, contaminants, the impact on biodiversity, habitats lost and the effect on the sustainability of the seas. Without a doubt, this is a serious problem. In 2016 I introduced legislation to deal with microbeads and microplastics and start building an awareness of this issue. Two years on there is no legislation before us other than Deputy Sean Sherlock's Bill. The delegates have given us the evidence from their research in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, GMIT. Evidence is emerging around the world and the GMIT research has been really significant. However, we must consider the entire coastline. This is only a sample. I wonder what is happening in the Irish Sea, my area around Tramore and Waterford and along the northern coastline. We need more evidence. There must be greater support for the institutes in order to build the evidence required and we need this to be written into the legislation. That is what my Bill would have provided for. It would have provided for monitoring in order that the relevant information would be available to us on an all-island basis.

In addition, I note that this is a transboundary problem. What is the Department doing on an international level? Are officials working through MARPOL, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, and the various international associations in pursuing this issue from an Irish perspective?

For me, legislation is not coming quickly enough. I understand the Department needs resources, including human resources, to develop legislation. However, we have a problem with macro and microplastic pollution; contaminants such as polymers; and the impact of toxins in the food chain. It is a serious issue and we must have legislation to deal with it. When I introduced my Bill, the then Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, said he would have to talk to the European Commission because of Single Market rules. We now know that that did happen and that the Minister sought a derogation which we have not seen either. From my perspective, the evidence is stacking up that we have a serious problem which potentially is impacting on human health. As said, there are so many aspects to it, including pollution, contaminants, habitats lost and the impact on biodiversity and sustainability of the seas. We are, therefore, not moving fast enough and I am asking the Department to move with greater urgency. Two years have passed. We have Deputy Sean Sherlock's Bill, but if the Department has something better I ask that we be allowed to see it and soon. We must take into consideration not only microbeads and microplastics but also the collation of data, which will mean supporting the institutes in order that we work proactively as well as retroactively to deal with what is an ongoing problem.


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