Dáil debates

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2022: Second Stage (Resumed)


Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

2:55 pm

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin Fingal, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Smyth, the Minister, Deputy Ryan, and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications for their significant work on this Bill. It is a core tenet of the programme for Government and an extremely important Bill in the path to decarbonising our economy and ensuring we have a liveable planet in the future.

There are some very significant and important steps on which the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action, of which I am a member, has done significant work. It has been a real pleasure to work with colleagues of all parties and none on that committee to try, where we can, to improve legislation that is brought forward by the Department. I note with appreciation the change that is being implemented through this Bill to the use by local authorities of CCTV to attempt to cut down on fly tipping, which is a stain on our communities, particularly in our beautiful rural areas.

One issue that has grabbed a lot of attention of late is the so-called latte levy or the charge on disposable cups and containers. Will the Minister of State clarify whether that applies to biodegradable cups? Many retailers have gone to great efforts to ensure their cups are biodegradable and I am not sure if it is the intent of the Government-----

Photo of Ossian SmythOssian Smyth (Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
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It does apply.

Photo of Alan FarrellAlan Farrell (Dublin Fingal, Fine Gael)
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It does apply. I have two slight concerns, the first of which is timing. I fully appreciate this will not be implemented until there is some sort of public consultation, but that being said, the timing is not great. The cost of living is rising at a significant rate and such a measure would only add to that. However, there is a great deal we can learn from the consultation process that I am certain will ensue. The promotion of keep cups, among other measures, is certainly something on which I agree with the Department. I am also concerned about fast-tracking the ban on non-recyclable cups.

The Minister of State will be aware that a number of retailers are still using cups that cannot be recycled in green bins. I am aware there is a lead-in time before they are completely banned, but is there an opportunity to bring it forward? There are alternatives. Companies should no longer be able to cite old stock as an excuse. I ask the Minister of State to consider that.

I am fully behind efforts to cut waste in society and to provide sustainable and affordable alternatives. The two proposals outlined in this Bill, namely, the circular economy strategy and the circular economy fund, are welcome. The ban on new licences for coal extraction, lignite and shale oil, also a key programme for Government commitment, is to be commended. I ask the Minister of State to set out in his summation how quickly we might be able to achieve that policy goal. One of the most important aspects on which we can all do better, as is clear from the amount of food waste in our society, is the food waste prevention strategy.

I thank the Minister of State for his work.

3:05 pm

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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I welcome this Bill, which has been long awaited in this House. The main provisions of the Bill include the establishment of a circular economy fund by way of the charging of a levy to encourage people and suppliers to move to reusable alternatives; the recycling of certain single-use items; a prohibition on the supply of certain single-use items where suitable alternatives are available; the making of a national food waste prevention strategy; and, importantly, amendments to various Acts to allow for the detection and prosecution of illegal litter and waste disposal through the use of CCTV and other digital images. I welcome this particular aspect of the Bill. The provisions contained within it will allow for the use of CCTV to detect illegal activity. I am dumbfounded at the stance of the Data Protection Commissioner on this issue. Some local authorities have had to remove CCTV that could have been used to prevent crime and illegal fly-tipping in wonderful scenic areas. Thankfully, that issue is being dealt with in this Bill. It is important this Bill is fast-tracked such that local authorities will be in a position to install CCTV, catch the culprits and bring them before the courts.

There is one other aspect I would like to raise. In our rural areas, towns and villages throughout the country, there are many volunteers working in Tidy Towns groups and community development organisations, spending many hours every week cleaning up waste, rubbish and so on to make those towns and villages nice environments. There should be some recognition given to Tidy Towns groups in the fund to be created. I acknowledge the nominal support provided by the Department of Rural and Community Development to Tidy Towns, which is a wonderful movement. Ennis was named the tidiest town in Ireland, which is huge success for a county town. There should be recognition of those who work voluntarily to keep our areas clean. I ask the Minister of State to consider that proposal.

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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We are all in agreement that there needs to be a move away from our linear economy. Functional obsolescence is a feature of some goods. While previously computer hard drives and other parts would have been replaced, this no longer happens. When it comes to laptops, I do not know what type of skill set a person would need to be able to open one up. Mobile phone batteries become obsolete after about six months' use. I am probably operating a false economy in that I carry a fully charged power pack with me just to keep my mobile phone charged. That probably says more about my laziness in terms of not going to a shop to buy a new phone. That is something we need to address.

We all accept that single-use plastics such as are visible in our shopping centres are an absolute disaster. We have all been sinners in regard to the non-recyclable cups. As in an awful lot of scenarios, while we can all seek to become somewhat more organised, there is an element of State intervention required, although I accept that nobody is going to welcome another increase in cost at this time. There are wider issues that need to be dealt with, but that is for other debates, of which there will be many.

In regard to the moves with regard to climate change, as shown in regard to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Government response to deal with the Ukrainian crisis, it is clear the State needs to do the heavy lifting and it has to be facilitated to do that. In regard to facilitating repair, washing machines, dishwashers and so on are built on the basis they can be repaired. That is an absolute necessity. On packaging, it goes without saying that that needs to be addressed.

On local authorities, everybody welcomes they are to be permitted to install CCTV and drones to monitor the huge levels of criminality. Local authorities are under severe pressure in this regard. We need a greater suite of tools. There may be a need for all of us at particular times to prove we have bins, use recycling centres and so on. I know things have changed in regard to council tenants, but it has to be for all of us. Anybody present who was previously a councillor will recall the many photos of mattresses they put up. I recall that at one point I had planned a clean-up in Muirhevnamore in Dundalk and, as I was concerned I had not given sufficient notice, I went on radio about it. It was the worst thing I could have done because people came from everywhere and they dumped all sorts. We need to deal with illegal dumpers.

We need more information in regard to the circular economy fund and, beyond that, we need to thank residents' groups, including the local group in the town I come from, and Tidy Towns across Louth and this State, who have done great work. We have to facilitate them. We also have to facilitate local authorities, where they do not necessarily have the funding.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. There is no doubt there is a need for a stronger focus on a circular economy and stronger accountability in terms of waste management and our personal environmental impact. It is important we start to consider the lifetime of products rather than see them in a linear, take-make-waste approach, as currently we tend to do.

According to the 2021 circularity gap report, the global economy is only 8.6% circular. That is incredibly concerning. We would need to double this figure to close the greenhouse gas emissions gap and keep us below a 2°C rise in temperature by 2032.

There is a strong focus in this Bill on making our economy circular, which is great. The Bill supports a significant move towards reusing and recycling and preventing waste. However, I note a lack in reduction policies. There seems to be a focus on the reuse of products, with no focus on our consumption patterns and how to reduce our consumption as a whole. I also note more of a focus on the consumer and the product than on the manufacturer and how products are created. This has been the downfall of most of our environmental policies over the years. I am disappointed this Bill seems to follow suit with this type of individual blame. It is unfair to place all of the accountability on individuals when industry has such a big part to play in ensuring a circular economy and in proper waste management. A Bill such as this needs to include industry in a much stronger way.

I have concerns about section 14A, which provides that an authorised person can submit to the chief executive of a local authority a proposal to install and operate a CCTV scheme in the functional area of that local authority to deter environmental pollution and facilitate the deterrence, prevention, detection and prosecution of offences under this Act.

Although the Bill outlines that the CCTV scheme will be reviewed at least every five years, I am unsure about a permanent type of CCTV fixture. Really and truly, that arrangement will become permanent rather than being reviewed every five years.

I understand that far more needs to be done to address properly and efficiently the illegal dumping that ruins many of our beauty spots in this country. I have seen many beautiful areas around Donegal ruined by illegal dumping, which is incredibly upsetting. However, I know that during pre-legislative scrutiny of this Bill there was a discussion about facilitating non-CCTV technology, such as drones and body cameras, to ensure monitoring of illegal dumping takes place in a manner that is compliant with the general data protection regulation, GDPR, and law enforcement directive provisions rather than inserting a permanent fixture in rural areas. Why did those conversations not progress? I know the Minister has said that data privacy and data intrusion have been taken into account when drafting this Bill and I am very glad to hear that the Data Protection Commissioner was involved in addressing these concerns. However, despite the constant reassurances those have been addressed, I am yet to hear exactly how they have been addressed. It is extremely important this is looked at on Committee Stage.

I have been concerned to hear the number of Deputies speaking out against GDPR during this debate. We have to remember we are living in a very different world than we were ten years ago and we can guarantee we will be living in a very different world in ten years' time. Technology is evolving at an incredibly rapid pace and we need to ensure we are constantly taking into account our citizens’ privacy and GDPR rights. GDPR is more important now than ever. It is not true that someone who is not doing something wrong has nothing to fear from CCTV surveillance. That must be taken into account in this Bill. Illegal dumping is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately but not at the expense of our privacy rights. There is no knowing how technology will develop and we need to be aware of potential threats to our privacy or we could be looking back in 50 years' time wondering when we began compromising our privacy rights and why.

It would be beneficial if we also looked further into the causes of illegal dumping. In some rural areas, such as in my constituency of Donegal, there is no provision for waste collection services and people are forced to travel long distances to dump their waste properly. In our attempt to address illegal dumping, we should be making more of an effort to address the lack of access rural areas may have to waste collection. The constant privatisation of waste collection services and the focus on fees are also barriers to many people who want to dispose of their waste affordably. The previous speaker, Deputy Ó Murchú, outlined that he announced on the radio that a clean-up was ongoing and a lot of rubbish suddenly appeared. That is something we must look at and take account of. I am convinced that is a result of privatisation and fees.

We are too quick to jump to extreme measures without properly addressing and strengthening measures that are already in place. For example, most people do not know that every household in Ireland should be supplied with a brown bin. I was waiting for a brown bin to be provided to me but it never came. I contacted the provider to ask what the story was and I was told that households must ask for it. Nobody in my town asked for a brown bin. Mine is the only house in the area of the town with a brown bin because I have asked for it. That is nonsensical and crazy. How can we talk about a circular economy and proper waste collection when this is how we deal with things? It does not make sense.

Most households are not aware they are entitled to a brown bin despite the fact brown bins play an important role in creating a circular economy. The Government’s Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy states that the National Waste Collection Permit Office and brown bin data will be used "to develop strategies and investigate how new technology can support greater usage". That is again looking to create new measures to support greater use of brown bins when most of the country do not even know they are entitled to one. I do not think brown bins are rolled out widely in Dublin. What is needed here is an awareness campaign or for waste management companies to provide bins automatically so that households must use them. It should not be the case that people have to make a decision to ask for them. Brown bins are a fantastic contribution to a circular economy and it is a shame they are not being utilised fully. Since I started using a brown bin in my house, it has made a considerable difference. It has also made a difference to what goes into the black bin. That is the kind of stuff that should be normal rather than persevering with the crazy situation whereby people must ring up and ask for bins themselves.

It is important to remember that a circular economy is not a new concept. A few decades ago, our economy was far more circular. Hand-me-downs and the reusing of products and materials, such as clothes and bottles, was the norm. However, like most of the rest of the world, we got swept up in macro-structures of unsustainability, such as capitalist-based materialism and individualism, which have created an incredibly linear economy. Those models were forced on us. We did not tell anyone we wanted those models. They were forced on us by capitalism and society as a whole. We must tackle that.

We know today's capitalistic economies are not sustainable. We know we cannot continue with the enormous level of consumption that has been taking place in recent years. We need a return to our previous habits of continuously and consistently reusing and recycling. We cannot hide the fact that a lot of our emissions issues are due to the capitalist system in which we live. We must challenge the capitalist economy that pushes constant production for profit, which is not sustainable, if we are serious about trying to establish and nurture a circular economy. This means making industry responsible as much as individuals.

I welcome that the Bill includes timelines. I hope this will be the norm for Government Bills going forward. There is no point introducing such legislation when there is no real commitment to introduce it within a timeline. I have often said this country has great legislation but serious issues with implementation, so I welcome that there are timelines and I hope all future Bills follow suit. Implementation is vital.

Like other Deputies, I have a few language issues. Although timelines are included, this Bill, like most Bills before it, continues to use very vague language. There is repeated use of the word "may", which suggests a lack of commitment in terms of implementation, which, as I said, we struggle with in this country. I would also like further clarification on where the money for the levies outlined in this Bill will go. I understand the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications now has the power to introduce new environmental levies on single-use items, with the proceeds ring-fenced for products related to environmental and climate action objectives. I am glad to hear this will be put towards a new circular economy fund to support key environmental projects, but I believe there should be complete transparency on the projects it funds. I welcome that the purpose of the levies will not be to raise revenue, although I sometimes doubt that because many levies seem to be all about raising revenue. I also welcome that they will only be introduced where there are sustainable alternatives to the consumer. That is important. It can be easily imagine that those levies could become a valuable revenue stream the State could not afford to do without.

Overall, there are improvements that need to be made to this Bill. However, I welcome the increased focus on a circular economy. Many of the measures are well overdue and needed and I hope it goes a long way towards reducing emissions in this country. We need to ensure a transition to a circular economy model as soon as possible to address the negative impacts on the environment and human health caused by the incredible increase and unsustainable trends in production and consumption of materials and products. I hope that many of the issues outlined are considered on Committee Stage. I know the Minister said in his opening address that he intends to respond to the committee's pre-legislative scrutiny recommendations and I will be interested to hear that response.

The important point is that a circular economy must work for everyone and should never be at anyone’s expense. We are trying to improve the environment and improve lives, which is what should be at the heart of this legislation.

3:15 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate. I welcome the legislation. I pay tribute to the work of the committee, which has produced a report with 62 recommendations. I have also read the report of the rapporteur, Deputy Bruton. I have read everything about this matter. I welcome the Bill. However, I will put into perspective why we need this Bill.

In environmental terms, the central reason for a circular economy is simply that business as usual is not sustainable, with global resource consumption outstripping the planet's natural resources. In economic terms, it is estimated that a mere 5% improvement in Ireland's circularity rate, which is the rate at which materials are recovered and fed back into the economy, would result in savings of €2.3 billion, at a conservative estimate. That is included in the Whole of Government Circular Economy Strategy 2022-2023 on more than one occasion and has been pointed out by the Taoiseach. The strategy also points out that Ireland is towards the bottom of the list of EU countries when considering their circular material use rate. I note the Minister of State has rightly taken pride in our improvement. However, in the overall scheme of things, we have a very long way to go with only a tiny window of opportunity.

Unfortunately, on the broader measure of circularity, Ireland lags behind its EU peers.

I will not go into all of it. According to EUROSTAT figures, in 2019 Ireland's circular material use rate was 1.6%. If it has gone up a tiny bit since 2019, I welcome that. The EU average was 11.9%. The Netherlands achieved a rate of 28.5% and we were at 1.6%. That is the context of the importance of a circular economy.

I would like to think I am not that old but I remember vividly a life where our clothes were made, our shoes were repaired and we ate local vegetables. I could go on. As my colleague said, I did not make a decision, and nor did my parents, to change that. It was made for us and we had no choice in it. We went from buying local produce in the market, repairing shoes and having clothes made to a disposable economy. Not alone was that done against our will but we were told it was for our own good. It was that lovely patriarchal voice always telling us what is for our good. It was the result of capitalism gone mad, under neoliberal capitalism. We had a difficulty with the god of religion - and I can see why given what was done in religion's name - but we replaced it with the god of Mammon and the god of consumption.

We have a model of the world that tells us endless consumption is okay. We boasted that Galway city was the fastest growing city and Ireland's economy the fastest growing economy. We boasted all the time. When some voices on this side of the House, and some even before we came into the House, raised concerns, we were laughed at. We were told we were negative and out of date. I welcome the Minister of State's approach. He is trying to do something about this. However, this legislation is just a tiny drop. It is welcome but it does not look at the overall model. We are zoning in again on the consumer, which is right with regard to disposable cups, and giving a statutory footing to a number of the strategies outlined here but we are not looking at the cause of what is happening. We are not looking at the production of the cups at all but we are going to look at their use.

In May 2019, under pressure from the Opposition, which was under pressure from the people, including children, the Government declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. At some stage we have to act on this. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was published on 28 February and followed on from five previous reports, stated that the window of opportunity for action is brief and rapidly closing. It sets out that the climate crisis is inseparable from the biodiversity crisis and the poverty and inequality suffered by billions of people. Half a million more people are at risk of serious flooding every year and 1 billion people living on coasts will be exposed by 2050. It highlights that climate losses and damages are strongly concentrated among the poorest and most vulnerable populations, who have done the least to cause the problem. Targeting a climate-resilient sustainable world involves fundamental changes to how society functions. The Minister of State does not need a lecture from me on this. I am standing here in desperation. At what point will we actually make our actions mean something in the existential crisis we are facing with climate and biodiversity change? That is what we need to do with this model.

I make my comments as somebody who was elected to Galway City Council in 1999. We were led by the people of Galway. I do not know if the Minister of State is familiar with what happened but we fought a campaign on waste. I was only part of it because we were led by the people. It was captured in a book entitled The Burning Issue, which catalogued the outrage at the proposal to develop an incinerator in Galway. It was not NIMBYism but because we had a zero-waste policy. In 1999 and 2000, massive monster meetings were held on the issue in the Corrib Great Southern Hotel. Deputy Grealish will admit he was first elected to the Dáil on that platform. My model was that we should have no incineration anywhere, not just Galway. We wanted zero waste. We had speakers from all over the world.

I mention this because we produced a plan in Galway City Council that set out targets for zero waste, and management laughed at us, saying it was not possible. We showed what was possible. Deputy Bruton might be interested in this. The power was taken from us by the 2001 waste management plan. The democratic control of waste management was taken from us. At that time, the experts and the people in Galway were saying waste was a resource and we should do something about it. For a brief period of time we rolled out a three-bin service. We had education officers and liaison officers. Can the Minister of State imagine that? It was led by a public authority where we were all involved. We had newsletters in Irish and English and liaison officers. What happened? Government policy, through the Local Government Management Agency, said "No". It told us not to do this.

We are now back to cash for cans. That is not included in the legislation but it will be coming in. We rolled out a cash for cans scheme where people could get €4 for 100 cans in a bag. The management broke our heart and broke the scheme. That is what they did. I am saying that publicly. Now we are going to go back again and roll it out. If I speak with a sense of frustration, that is why. We listened to the people on the ground. The Minister of State's colleague spoke earlier about radical listening with regard to women's health. There was radical listening in Galway about the way forward, when people told us this model of absolute consumption was not sustainable. That is the model that continues today.

I have here the enterprise plan for the west region, which is very welcome. However, I do not see a single chapter on climate change. There are little words here and there, like "sustainable bioeconomy" but no recognition of the fundamental change that needs to occur for this plan to be successful. I see no mention of a sustainable seaweed industry or a sustainable wool industry, both of which would fit in with the circular economy. There is nothing there.

I will finish on a positive note. I welcome what is before us. However, I ask that we stop pretending and giving the illusion that we are doing something. People are far away ahead of us. They know what we are facing with the climate emergency and they know fundamental change is required. Putting the focus on the consumer, talking about ordinary people as polluters and bringing in CCTV legislation is a mistake. People want to be good, by and large. They want to work with us and what they need is leadership that is commensurate with their vision, imagination and sense of urgency.

3:25 pm

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate. We face three interlocking crises at the moment, that is, an energy crisis, a climate crisis and a refugee crisis. We need a resilient strategy and we need it now. It is important that we start to bend our minds in this Oireachtas, using the best minds from across this Chamber, to how to do that. There are plenty of pillars on which we can build it. We need a consumer protection pillar to promote switching, to make it easier to make contact with utilities and to offer the best available tariffs. Huge change could be made in the regulatory system to improve the lot of consumers. We need to better manage our supply chains in every sector to better manage fuel, fossil fuel use, resource use and waste. That is particularly true for construction, food, retail, equipment, cars, white goods and so on. We need initiatives to optimise asset use. Our sharing platforms are lamentable. We still have not delivered a platform to allow the new e-scooters to be shared on our streets. We need to remove the GDPR obstacle that is preventing the 750,000 smart meters we have put into homes from being used to bring down the cost of fuel for people. We need structural solutions for vulnerable groups.

The Minister is to be commended on rolling out the warmer homes scheme but we should shelve some of our ambitions for the deeper retrofits to ensure we move much more swiftly to deliver the lower hanging fruit that can be delivered on lower fossil fuel dependence. We need to tackle the delivery crisis we face in critical infrastructures that will be needed for these three crises, including the roll-out of renewables, the capacity to build at higher density and so on. Most of all, we need to mobilise communities in a way we have not done before. There are elements of it there with sustainable energy communities but we need to see communities supported to deliver resilience, such as resilience within the farming sector. There are many farmers who could do something but because of their age or their lack of access to resources, they might not have the capacity to deliver it. Communities can work together. There is the old Irish concept of a meitheal, which can deliver these changes within our communities. Those are all elements of a resilience strategy and I could list many more. What do they all have in common? They are at the heart of a circular economy strategy - that is what unites them - and they are about using the resources we have more prudently.

As Deputy Connolly, who has now left, said, we are the worst country in Europe in the circularity rate we apply. In the last four years local authorities were given grant aid to put in electric vehicle, EV, infrastructure. Not one local authority has put in one charger for EVs, even though we want and desire people to make the switch to electric driving. Some 25% of our food is wasted. We can make huge changes there and there are some pioneering people at work in that sector. Some 90% of our private car journeys are single-person journeys because we have not promoted the concept of using our assets more fruitfully. We lock people out of our schools and public infrastructure, where they could have multiple uses in their communities. We have not developed solar panels as an option to become more self-sufficient. Only 5% of our smart meters are being used to allow people to use their energy more prudently and avoid high-cost fossil use when they could have renewable use. In the building and construction sector, only 10% of materials are recycled, which is an appallingly low figure. This is the sector that uses the most materials when it comes to the circular economy and it performs the worst in turning them around. We make little use of timber, which acts as a store of carbon but we make heavy use of concrete, which is an expensive way, in climate terms, of carrying out construction. We have no culture of repair. Like Deputy Connolly, I grew up in a world where we repaired everything. My father always had his torcement, as he used to call it, to mend things that the culture did not tolerate throwing away.

I welcome the arrival of a circular economy Bill but I am disappointed at the extent to which the recommendations in the pre-legislative scrutiny have been taken on board. It is a milk-and-water definition and it does not explicitly name the need to rethink and redesign the supply chains that we rely on up and down the country. No criteria are set out in the legislation for principles and policies against which a plan should be developed. We have not insisted that good design principles be enunciated and promoted in each and every sector. We have not placed an obligation on Ministers other than the Minister of State to report or take action on their responsibilities. We have left it to the EPA to develop the programmes when it has to be a whole-of-government approach to delivering programmes if we are to fulfil the ambitions of the strategy. We have no system of reporting or accountability across the system in delivering on the circular economy ambitions. We have not integrated it into the climate action plan, which has oversight from the Department of the Taoiseach and has yearly reporting. This should be integrated within that. It is in the same parent Department so it should be integrated as a core element. The EPA is not given sufficient leverage for its programme development. All the Bill does is require it to furnish a copy to public bodies. That is the lowest level of pressure that can be put on a public body to deliver. No power has been given to impose levies on materials, even though as we look further ahead the circular economy will undoubtedly need to go beyond the action being taken on single use plastics and containers to other areas. The issue of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS, has been highlighted in the report of the Committee on Environment and Climate Action and there are many who want to see PFAS outlawed because it is not consistent with the approach we should take. We also have not committed to having sectoral plans. I welcome that the Minister of State has said there will be sectoral targets. They have not been enunciated yet and it is right that they should not be enshrined in primary legislation but we have to know that there will be sectoral plans and that such planning will start immediately.

I know that the Minister of State's heart is in the right place and that he is determined to make a difference with this circular economy legislation. I have given quite a bit of my time since leaving office to look at the potential in this area and there is low-hanging fruit that he could be gathering now and in the near future. There are also major structural changes that we could start to put in place now so that they could be part of a resilience strategy. I agree with what the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, said earlier about hearing too much clamour from the Opposition benches to the effect that we should spend more on sheltering people. We cannot shelter everyone from the changes that are coming because the energy and climate crises are real. We have to change behaviour and that means that the money you have goes into shifting behaviour, not into just trying to shelter people from the worst impacts. I agree that this has come as a huge shock and the Government is right to try to shelter people to some extent but the message is that we need to make permanent shifts and we have the capacity in Ireland to make those. We have always been adaptable, which has been one of our strengths. The reason we have had good economic growth and we have been a stellar economy is that we have been able to see, before others, the need to adapt. This is an area in which we need to adapt because the later you leave it the more expensive it is. If we adapt now, we gain a competitive edge and we gain a much better contribution to creating a sustainable environment for our community and for all of us.

I wish the Minister of State well and I look forward to the debate on Committee Stage. I hope the Minister of State will be willing to accept amendments from Government colleagues, as well as from the Opposition, and is open to making changes. We get one shot at this as an Oireachtas and we need to give it our best shot. Hopefully that will put lead in the Minister of State’s pencil when he comes to sit down with other Ministers to look for action from them.

3:35 pm

Photo of Christopher O'SullivanChristopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State and the Department for bringing this important Bill to the Oireachtas. I also want to single out the contribution of Deputy Bruton. When the Committee on Environment and Climate Action first convened over 18 months ago, he led on waste and the circular economy and he had a real passion. He was passionate about it, he wanted to contribute and he contributed in a big way. In particular during pre-legislative scrutiny there were some great debates and lines of questioning so I want to single out his role in that regard.

This Bill is timely for many reasons. We have spoken a lot about the climate crisis but we are now also in the midst of an energy crisis. This Bill is closely linked and intertwined with the energy crisis in this linear economy and approach we have had so far. There is the simple example of one plastic bottle or one plastic cup and the amount of energy and resources that go into making that one item and then it gets one use and is disposed of. That is a completely inefficient and wasteful use of energy. The concept of changing that model is so important. That plastic bottle could go on to become a T-shirt and that T-shirt could go on to become a mattress and so on and so forth.

It is an important concept. The energy that went into making that plastic now becomes more purposeful. In the midst of an energy crisis, with soaring costs, we have to think about doing things differently and being more efficient with how we use our energy. We have to model it on the natural cycle that we see in nature, where an animal eats a blade of grass, which is then eaten by another predator, which eventually dies and decomposes into the earth. It is simple, but it is how nature works and what we need to follow.

The legislation is timely since, for decades, our oceans have been a dumping ground. There are scary statistics, with 12.7 million tonnes of plastic being dumped into our oceans each year. The use of our oceans as a dumping ground is disgusting. That needs to stop. When this legislation has passed, it needs to reflect that, because that dumping has a huge impact on human health and wildlife. One million seabirds and about 100,000 mammals die from ingesting plastic every year. That is relevant to us here in Ireland. The Irish coast, from the inshore right out to the Porcupine Shelf and Porcupine Seabight, is one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet, with a variety of cetaceans, fish and wildlife. That wildlife is being stranded and washed ashore in increasing numbers with evidence of having digested plastic. A main motivator for people to reduce plastic is the fact that this is ending up in their digestive system.

This Bill has to be a key part in reducing the amount of plastic that we use and therefore reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans. The levies that are being introduced are an important part of that. They make absolute sense. It is easy to defend the introduction of the levy to discourage the use of single use cups and to bring a reusable coffee cup instead wherever one goes. I know there were concerns regarding Covid and people banned the use of keep cups. We have seen the science of that change and it is now seen as a safe way to get one's coffee. I encourage everyone to do that and to cut back on the use of disposable coffee cups. This Bill will achieve that through this levy, as well as the levies on other wasteful products.

I would like to see stronger legislation regarding microplastics, which are talked about frequently. They are still not discouraged enough and they still exist. They are one of the most harmful forms of pollution, particularly of our oceans, because it is so easy for them to get into water and out into the oceans. There was a good discussion during pre-legislative scrutiny, which I know Deputy Bruton spoke about, on putting an onus to address this on companies, especially big industry. It is much harder for micro and small businesses to make those changes. We need to see big industries drive towards making products for a circular economy, with multiple uses always being in the background. The legislation needs to be strengthened if possible. I look forward to having an opportunity to make amendments on Committee Stage. I hope that amendments which make sense will be entertained and potentially included.

The inclusion of legislation regarding CCTV is one of the most exciting parts of this Bill. Many people in this House have come up through the ranks of local authorities. One of the scourges of both rural and urban areas, for example in beauty and tourist spots of west Cork with rich biodiversity, is the blight of dumping of mattresses, couches, washing machines and rubbish in general. It is disgusting and I see the use of CCTV as a key in discouraging that. I urge all local authorities to take it up in a big way.

Local authorities have to be more proactive on the environment, the circular economy and the reduction of waste. Getting local authorities to install drinking fountains is like pulling teeth. If people want to bring their own water bottles, which we see much more of, they should have stations to fill up. It is a simple principle, but trying to get local authorities to install these systems in towns around Ireland is like pulling teeth. It is similar to the issue with EV chargers, which we should have rolled out on a far bigger scale, but local authorities are reluctant to do that, even in cases where communities have come together to purchase an EV charger. That needs to change.

One matter I would like to see in this legislation is not spoken about. If it belongs in other legislation, that is fine, but we need to find room for it. We need a policy on anaerobic digestion. It is fundamental to helping with the energy crisis and with decarbonising agriculture. We have heard about the contribution of agriculture to greenhouse gas emissions. It is a large emitter, but the industry and the sector want to change and to be part of the solution, which we have seen in the climate action plan. Anaerobic digestion is key. The philosophy of having a co-operative approach to the disposal of waste, whether it is from a piggery, chicken farm, beef farm or local distillery with grain waste, involves having a ready-made place to bring waste to, which then generates energy. It has gone down well in my home town, Timoleague, and there has not been any conflict with the local community. It generates enough energy to power a town of 1,000 people. The red tape and obstacles put in the way of someone who wants to start up an anaerobic digester are excessive. I understand the potential pitfalls. We do not want to see crops being specifically grown for an anaerobic digester, but we have waste, and the best thing for emissions is for the waste product to be a low-emission slurry to be spread over the land. I would love for this to be considered for inclusion in the Bill and, if not in this Bill, then in other legislation.

There is a fantastic group in west Cork called Cycle Sense. It has a unit in Skibbereen and invites people to bring used, broken-down bicycles to the unit. It repurposes and fixes them, so there are then fantastic bicycles to use again. It is a perfect example of the circular economy and what we should encourage throughout our land.

3:45 pm

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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I welcome this legislation. It is positive that we are debating it. One thing that we should set as a benchmark is that no child should ever go to bed hungry. The reality is that no children will ever reach their full potential if they are sitting at a school desk, hungry. According to the State agency, Safefood, 10% of our population in Ireland lives in food poverty. As a food producing country and a major food exporter, we dump nearly 2 tonnes of food every single minute. As a country, we dump more than 1 million tonnes of food every single year. That is not including what comes from the agriculture sector. It is estimated that households in Ireland throw away one third of the food they purchase in the supermarket.

There is something fundamentally wrong in a system and a country where we dump so much food, yet so many people go hungry. We have so many children going hungry. The average annual cost of the food that Irish homes dump every year is €750, which is a substantial amount. There are initiatives to encourage people to plan their meals and shopping, to better use their leftovers and to dispose of food ultimately correctly. One of the biggest problems we face as a country is getting people to understand the difference between “use by” and “best before”. A large volume of food is dumped every year because of that simple misunderstanding. One thing I encourage people to do is to look into their bin and see what they are throwing out. I particularly encourage them to see what they are throwing into their bin that has remained unopened or unused because half of all the food that is dumped in Irish households is unopened or unused. If we could do that much it would be of great benefit in reducing food waste and emissions, as well as saving families a substantial amount.

I supported the issue of reducing food waste as Minister. We developed an initiative in County Roscommon with Roscommon County Council. We went around hotels and restaurants and worked directly with them to examine the profile of the food that they were dumping. Restaurants and hotels in the county were able to reduce their food costs by 30% on average through that process and continuing to monitor it. That is a substantial saving, particularly in an industry where margins are so tight. I was in the restaurant next door to my own office a couple of weeks ago, which is the Peppermill restaurant. They have a sign at the till, which states that when customers buy their breakfast, they do not automatically give them toast. Customers have to ask for toast. This not because they do not want to give people toast. I asked the manager and he told me that they were dumping buckets of bread every day when they automatically gave toast to people and it was not being used. By looking at what was going into their food bin every day, they altered the restaurant menu to reflect that. All of us as individuals, families and businesses, need to look at that.

The reality is that a certain volume of food will unavoidably go to waste, such as fruit and vegetable skins, etc. Yet, there is an inherent source of energy, nutrition and economic value in that waste. The last place it should go is into landfill. That is why when I was Minister, we took the decision to roll out brown bins on a phased basis to every home in Ireland. I was disappointed to hear from colleagues earlier that in some instances people had to seek out a brown bin, which should be available to them now. The objective is to gather up that waste resource and to reuse it to generate biogas. The residual is to be used as fertiliser, which is now today a valuable resource, particularly within the agricultural community.

Speaking of a resource, which food waste is, it also has a huge impact on our climate emissions. The discussion about climate change has focused on energy generation, on how we choose to travel and on how we choose to heat our homes. However, food has a substantial climate impact. The carbon footprint of wasted food globally is estimated to be 3.3 Gt. If food waste was a country, it would rank only behind the United States and China in greenhouse gas emissions. What is hugely frustrating when discussing the issue of poverty is enough food is being produced in the world today to feed the population. However, because of our wastefulness and inefficiency people still go hungry. People still go hungry in Ireland today. We talk about food security, which is a topical issue. There is also a huge environmental and economic imperative that we address it. Ireland has an opportunity to be a global leader in how to dramatically reduce food waste and in how to manage the waste being generated in a far more responsible manner.

This is not just about the issue of food waste. We are a food producing country; it is probably the single biggest natural resource we have. However, all our natural resources need to be managed in a far more responsible way. We must ensure that we manage those resources to protect our planet. One issue that has emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as from the crisis we are now seeing as a result of war in Ukraine, is that it will hopefully bring about a different economic model. The economic model up to now has been a global economic model whereby one part of a product is produced in one part of the world and then value is added to it in another part of the world. We all need to look at how we can live within our own resources, within our own countries and within our own communities, rather than relying on imports and resources from another part of the world, which may have a detrimental economic and environmental impact there.

Technologists, scientists and engineers have a significant role to play in how they design these products. They should design them in the most economical terms and they should minimise the use of natural resources. They should also minimise the use of the volume of energy that is both used to produce the product in the first place, and that is used in the product’s consumption of energy over its lifespan. We have to design the manufacturing process in such a way that generates as little pollution as possible, not just at the time of its manufacture, but during its lifetime and in relation to its end-of-life disposal.

The idea of a life cycle of a product needs to change. Priority needs to be given first to repairing a product. People say that it is all well and good to talk about repairing something, but where do you actually go and do that? Over the past 20, 30 or 40 years, we have seen those skill sets disappearing. We had people who could repair products. There was a tradition and a culture of that in Ireland. When we go to Africa or Asia, we see how people repurpose and repair items on a regular basis, rather than buying something new. I recall a number of years ago when Roscommon County Council produced a booklet of different businesses around the county that were involved in the repair sector. These included repairing clothes, bicycles and phones. This was so that people knew where they could get their shoes or phones repaired.

Whether it was repairing clothes, bicycles or telephones, a person knew where he or she could get his or her shoes or phone repaired. That developed into a nationwide initiative. A person who needs a washing machine or radio repaired can log on to the repairmystuff.iewebsite and see where he or she can actually get that done. In fact, now, with regard to some heavy goods such as furniture, people actually call to people's homes and carry out those repairs rather than having to transport the items. That creates jobs within our local communities and economy rather than importing a new suite of furniture or a radio from the other side of the world where a huge volume of energy and natural resources were used to create that product in the first place.

We need to ensure that we actually reuse products more. Again, this comes back to scientists and engineers and how the product is designed. Instead of designing the latest mobile phone that one must replace after two years when the battery begins to wear out, products should be designed in such a way that if the battery goes, the battery is replaced and not the entire mobile phone. There needs to be a legal responsibility on the manufacturers to extend the lifespan of a product rather than having it for just two years only to dump it and buy a new phone, washing machine or whatever the case may be. It needs to be built in at the concept and design stage of that particular product.

The last option should be to recycle. Sadly, at the moment, there is this perception in society that it is a good thing to recycle. It is far better to recycle a product than to dump it in a bin that ends up either in landfill or incineration. Recycling is not the solution, however. We should ensure insofar as is possible that we minimise the number of products we put into the recycling bin and maximise the reuse of individual products, and only at the end of that process do we actually put it into recycling. When we recycle a product, a huge amount of energy has to be put into that product to repurpose it again. Even if it is glass bottles, which can be recycled generation after generation, a huge amount of energy needs to be put into that bottle to bring it onto the supermarket shelf again. It is the same with regard to plastics and, of course, there is a finite lifespan to a particular plastic bottle. It cannot be continually recycled; it has a specific lifespan.

On that issue, we are talking about a circular economy strategy that looks at all these big, weighty plans such as the waste action plan and UN sustainable development goals. Something very basic also needs to be included in the thinking of every product that is produced and put on to the market in the first place.

Those are the seven principles of universal design whereby we look at anything we design in such a way that it can be used by the maximum number of people. The genius who designed the scissors, for example, came up with a great idea if a person is right-handed but if he or she is ciotóg, it is not much good. That person actually has to get a specific scissors. How and why were scissors not designed that could have universal use? It is possible to very simply design scissors to do that.

It was obviously a man who designed the seat belt. I do not think any woman would have designed a seat belt in the way they are designed. We need to think about everyone in society when we are designing a product. People with ranging abilities, whether they be physical abilities or other capacities, must be taken into account and consideration when we design a product in the first place. We must take that into account at the start of that process, not down the road when we have generated a large volume of waste as a result of something that can only be used by a small proportion of our population.

Society, science, technology and engineering have a vital role to play in eliminating the generation of many these types of waste in the first place and reducing our overall climate emissions. I recall that when I was Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, we established the climate action fund specifically to drive innovation in Ireland to design unique solutions to deal with the unique climate challenges we have. Sadly, very little funding to date has gone into that particular aspect of climate change but, hopefully, that fund will drive the type of radical innovation needed to deal with the unique climate challenges we have here and not try to take a continental European solution and shoehorn it into an Irish model.

To give the Minister of State a practical example of what we are talking about in that regard, we often hear that the solution to our transport emissions in Ireland is public transport. In a densely populated country in continental Europe, that will solve the problem. It would solve the problem in our cities but when 37% of our population lives in isolated rural communities, that will not solve the problem. Some of the environmental geniuses say we need to shove everyone who is living in rural Ireland into towns and that will solve the problem. That will be many generations down the road long after we have dealt with the climate crisis we have at the moment. Delivering broadband in order that people do not have to sit in their cars in the first place actually provides a practical solution. Broadband probably has a far more significant climate impact here than anywhere else globally.

Let us look at our unique challenges and design unique solutions. We can be a global leader in that regard. We also need to ensure that we ban plastics for which alternatives are available. I am not talking about taxing them. If there is an alternative, they should be banned outright. Second, tax those plastics for which we do not have a practical alternative available today. One of those particular plastics, which is probably the single biggest problem microplastic globally, is to be found in cigarettes butts. Every cigarette butt contains 12,000 strands of plastic that go into our watercourses, rivers and oceans to be consumed by our fish and, ultimately, we consume that. That is one thing we need to address urgently.

4:05 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The floor is Deputy Fitzmaurice's.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill. When we talk about a circular economy, the first part I read about was CCTV and so forth, which I welcome. There is a major problem with dumping in many areas. More communities need to be encouraged and get involved. General data protection regulation and all this craic that is going on, whereby someone can have a person on video but cannot use it is absolutely horrendous. We must move on from it and resolve that issue.

We talk about a circular economy. I looked at it in the context some of the cups a person can get. If he or she goes in somewhere for a cup of tea without one, he or she pays more. What about the kettle that boiled the water? We design electric kettles at the moment that are throwaway. People buy a kettle in the shop, it works for a few months and the next thing, they bring it away and recycle it. That is the make-up of it. At one time, years ago, there was an element that could be screwed out and replaced and the electric kettle always worked.

It was pretty ordinary stuff. It had no great high technology but it did the job.

4:15 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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This was before the trend of built-in obsolescence.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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Yes. This can be seen in washing machines or any other feature of a house. Given the price of a washing machine versus the cost of calling someone to come and fix it, you would better off putting it into the boot of the car, bringing it to the recycling plant and buying a new one in the shop. If we keep that mentality going, there will never be a circular economy. We have to go back to the basics with great tradespeople. I recall black and white televisions. There was a bulb in the back of them and a tradesperson would change it and get the television going again. The owner might be without the screen for a day or two but there were tradespeople who would come and get the television back up and running. Those kinds of tradespeople are gone because a television, which showed a black and white picture at the time, used to cost IR£400 or IR£500. Nowadays, a television can be bought for €170 or €180. We have gone down the road of quick products and throwaway culture.

In fact, we are going the same way with cars. I come from the agricultural sector, where tractors are also going that way. There was a time when you could fix a tractor yourself with your hands. Now you have to get a guy with a laptop, a whizz kid who will charge an arm and a leg, and you would be nearly better off trading it in for a different one. That is the way we have gone. It will take a ferocious turnaround to get things back to where they were, and it will not be Ireland on its own; it will need to be an effort on the part of the EU and the wider world.

I acknowledge the Minister of State indicated he will grant us a meeting to discuss ideas. In the construction sector, for example, approximately 50% of emissions could be got rid of if we did things the way we should. As things stand, if I knocked down the building we are in and I put all the stone to one side, I would not be able to recycle it. If I brought it to a tip, that would be enough to tick the box to say it has been recycled. Instead, I should be able to bring the stone somewhere where it could be recycled and used on a roadway, for instance. I am not saying we should use it for houses or buildings but on roadways such as forestry roads or farmers' roads, or for motorways. That would not do any harm and we would then be reusing and recycling it.

I did a lot of work throughout the country carrying out water jobs and digging trenches. We would dig out all the soil and bring it all to a tip, and we would get stone from the quarry and fill the hole. In fact, there is now a better system known as soil stabilisation. The soil can be brought a quarter of a mile down the road to a yard and put it into a machine, and within 12 hours, a 30 tonne digger would not be able to dig it. The soil is mixed with a small quantity of cement and lime, and it is made stronger than the gear that would have been brought from the quarry. A coating is then applied to the top with a 1 m cover, and all that needs to be applied on top of that is a small amount of stone.

These are the steps we need to take. The problem is that people are trying to recycle topsoil and stone, and the county council will intervene and say those materials are end-of-waste stuff, so they should go to a tip. The council will threaten to take the person to court if he or she continues with what he or she is doing. That is the current mentality. To be blunt, the EPA has done absolutely nothing but put burdens on people. I know several people in the construction business who have gone to great lengths over the past two or three years to try to meet these requirements and go through all the licence procedures, and it costs a lot of money. They have waited two or three years just to get the licence in this so-called circular economy to allow them to recycle stone or concrete. Someone needs to call a halt to what is going on at the EPA. That might sound a bit strong but I have watched the agency over recent years. A product cannot be called an end-of-waste product if it is concrete that can be recycled. It has to be put under different terms and conditions. I agree some materials are end-of-waste products, but certain materials should be used. We should bear in mind that 90% of the soil that is removed in this city goes to Longford, Offaly, Monaghan and all over to tips, where it will be tipped into a field, a bulldozer will push it and, if stone is put on top of it, it will be capped and recycled. That is our coverage at the moment.

We should consider turning things around and switching to soil stabilisation, which is being used for the new Amazon warehouse in Dublin on its 10 acre facility and the area outside that. If we use soil stabilisation, we will reduce the movement of trucks in the country by 90%. That is some statistic. Moreover, we will reduce carbon emissions in the building sector by at least 50%. These are the innovative ideas but the problem is the machinery that is required is not cheap. The private sector is willing to make the change but the State is blocking it no matter what. This is bread and butter stuff in Germany, where it was first done years ago. Regardless of whatever idea we have here, however, we seem to want to put in stronger and more rigorous stuff than even the EU implements. I am no fan of the EU, but what we are doing here is even stronger than what the EU is providing for. The Minister of State has to grab this by the horns. Some of the people who believe they are on a glory track to saving the planet should look to the simple, low-hanging fruit we can pick. To return to the likes of the EU and the ideas I mentioned earlier, where can we improve in that regard? Where can we improve in respect of the building sector and pick the low-hanging fruit? Everything I have talked about is very simple. It is often the simple things that make the greatest improvements in life. If we do the simple things, we will help. I am not much of an admirer of the provisions for fines in the Bill. We need to bring people with us. If we say to people we can leave them with 90% of the soil on their land and build houses or a factory, and if we let them know it will save them a lot of money, anyone will buy in to that, as opposed to if we say we have to send 3,000 lorryloads down the road, on top of the traffic congestion and so on.

I have no objections to the Bill but we need to broaden its provisions. I have prepared some presentations and there is a group who will meet him to show him these innovative ideas. It is grand us showing them to him, but if there is someone in some corner of the EPA or anywhere else who is hell bent on blocking these ideas, we will go nowhere. I fear the EPA is living in its own world but it needs to understand what can be done. We need to embrace what has been done in other countries, and Germany has been miles ahead of most people in the building sector. I reiterate I have nothing against the Bill and I wish the Minister of State all the best, but we need to examine what low-hanging fruit we can pick.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I thank the Deputy for those words of wisdom and invite the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, to conclude.

Photo of Ossian SmythOssian Smyth (Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle, and all the Deputies for their fascinating and sincere contributions, not least because many of them were grounded in real-world experience. Thankfully, the regular pantomime has been missing from the debate and it has been very constructive. My sense was that the Deputies share the goals of the legislation and there is a general consensus in respect of the various measures and, therefore the contributions mostly related to additional measures they would like to see or to different emphases of priority, all of which I take on board. I cannot do justice to every contribution that was made over the two days of debate, so I propose that as well as addressing a number of them, we will take them up again on Committee Stage if any Deputies wish to highlight them with me.

As I indicated in my opening remarks, I will now address the recommendations of the report that came from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action. I thank the members of that committee for their constructive engagement on the Bill throughout the pre-legislative scrutiny process and for their comprehensive report. The committee's engagement with stakeholders and experts will serve as a model for how the pre-legislative scrutiny process can enhance draft legislation and engage with the wider policy context that was under consideration.

I support the vast majority of the recommendations. They reflect a policy that can be supported by my Department. However, because many of the legislative proposals would legally require public consultation and detailed consideration, it is not possible to reflect every recommendation in the Bill. However, those recommendations will now be actively considered in the context of future legislative proposals being developed by the Department and we can find other methods to implement them.

We can all agree that any measures included in the Bill need to be evidence-based, to be seen to be fair and inclusive, and to be able to stand up to legal scrutiny and potential challenge. The Bill reflects a quite fundamental recommendation of the committee, and that is the definition of the circular economy itself. This is the first time this has been defined in domestic law. The Bill marries the most commonly cited international definition of the circular economy with elements recommended by the committee, specifically relating to minimising environmental harms.

Provision has been made for the setting of sectoral targets in the circular economy strategy together with powers to set out the actions required to achieve those targets. This change will enhance the impact of future strategies.

Specific timeframes have been introduced in respect of the review of the circular economy strategy and the food waste prevention roadmap, which was recommended, and the term "recovery", specifically in the context of providing support from the circular economy fund, has been defined to exclude incineration.

Some committee recommendations are essentially non-legislative but they are being actively considered in the context of the ongoing development of circular economy policy with the Department. Other recommendations either are matters for other Departments or will require detailed consultation with my ministerial colleagues. It is proposed to examine these matters through the interdepartmental circular economy working group chaired by my Department. It will drive progress and cross-government implementation of the circular economy strategy and its future iterations.

It should also be noted that in matters such as circular product design or the introduction of a right to repair, these measures can most effectively be implemented through EU-wide measures rather than nationally. In that regard, I understand the EU Commission launched a suite of proposals as part of its sustainable products initiative just yesterday. On the same day I was introducing these proposals on Second Stage, the EU had a large number of issues going forward as well, particularly focused on eco design. As a number of Deputies pointed out, the most important time to bring in circularity is at the time of the design of the product. It should ask if the product is being designed in such a way that it is repairable and durable. That is now being tackled by the EU. Previously, eco design considerations were very much focused on energy efficiency and on electronic goods. This Bill aims to provide a set of national policy levers that can have an impact and I believe we have achieved the right balance in doing that.

I emphasise that the introduction of the new environmental levies is not a revenue-raising measure. My expectation, and indeed my hope, is that money raised from any new levy will fall off steeply over time as consumers switch to more sustainable alternative products and avoid incurring the levy. We saw this with the plastic bag levy. I am confident in that expectation. No levy will be brought in unless there has been public consultation first, there are identifiable alternatives for consumers, and those alternatives will not impose undue costs on businesses or consumers or will not compromise food safety in any way. Any further levies beyond the coffee cup levy will be introduced incrementally on the basis of extensive consultation on each occasion and only after we have a sound evidence base that there are suitable reusable alternatives to the single-use item in question. I do not anticipate levies on non-cup items being introduced before the end of 2023.

A number of Deputies suggested the Bill is too focused on consumer behaviour and not enough on that of business, but a number of the provisions are focused directly on businesses. The waste recovery levy will make it more expensive for waste holders who do not make the maximum use of opportunities to direct material for reuse or recycling. Mandatory incentivised pricing for the commercial waste sector also specifically addresses what businesses are doing with their waste. That is to bring businesses up to the same level as the domestic user who has been sorting his or her waste for years, and it will save them money. Businesses will also have to adapt to both changes in consumer behaviour as a result of the proposed levies and, ultimately, bans on certain single-use disposable items. The coffee cup levy is merely an interim measure until we get around to banning those products. The changes that are proposed in the Bill do not in any way apply only to consumers.

On the use of CCTV and other recording technologies, I am gratified but not surprised that the debate highlighted the need to deal with illegal dumping and littering. My Department has engaged with the local government sector in detail regarding these provisions. I understand the sector is fully satisfied the proposals in the Bill are fit for purpose but I want to reiterate that I do not want to see these technologies misused. I am satisfied the Bill will provide a robust legal basis in national law for their appropriate use. It is the lack of a legal basis that has prevented use of these technologies to date and it is that central problem the Bill will fix. Some Deputies pointed out that the GDPR is used sometimes as a catch-all excuse for not doing things. That is true but that was not the case here. The local authorities were prevented from gathering video evidence of dumping. They could not use it for the purpose of obtaining convictions and they were hampered as a result. All of society suffers by that commercial dumping. This is a measure aimed at commercial operators who are illegally making money from dumping waste.

Deputies also raised the forthcoming deposit return scheme for aluminium cans and plastic bottles. This has already been legislated for. It comes under the Waste Management Act 1996. In fact, I issued statutory instruments last year that covered this and we are at the implementation stage. That is why it does not have to be covered in this legislation.

The Separate Collection (Deposit Return Scheme) Regulations 2021, published in November last, have already introduced a requirement on producers to establish a deposit return scheme or to appoint a body to operate it on their behalf. I understand that in recent weeks a company was incorporated which will design and propose a deposit return scheme for my approval. I will introduce further regulations prior to the introduction of the scheme to establish, among other things, the level of deposit for the materials to be collected.

I also draw Deputies' attention to my intention to introduce a number of amendments on Committee Stage. First, I intend to provide further mechanisms for the amendment of existing industrial emissions, integrated pollution and waste licences by way of amendments to the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and the Waste Management Act 1996. The purpose of these amendments will be to allow for a broader type of amendment to these licences than is currently permitted but which will not itself alter the overall environmental impact of the activity. This is in line with the Bill's focus on smarter, more targeted regulation. Second, the general scheme provided for the establishment of a GDPR-compliant register of households without a waste collection service. It was not possible to complete the necessary consultation process required to introduce this provision at the time of publication of the Bill but I propose to do so by way of amendment on Committee Stage. Finally, I also hope to bring amendments on Committee Stage to provide for the use of fixed penalty notices for breaches of conditions attached to waste facility permits.

I look forward to further progress of the Bill on Committee Stage and I once again thank the Deputies for their contributions on this crucially important matter today.

Question put and agreed to.