No basis for Minister’s decision to get rid of packaging levy and container deposit return scheme

The Environmental Pillar is extremely disappointed at Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s announcement today that he will not go ahead with either a packaging levy or a container deposit and return scheme.

Photo credit: Beej Jorgensen

‘We’re very disappointed at the Minister’s decision,’ said Mindy O’Brien, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar. ‘A properly constructed packaging levy won’t increase costs to business. It will shift industry focus towards more reusable packaging, and save money for many businesses which pay to dispose of packaging.’

‘At the moment, most of our packaging is exported overseas to be recycled or burnt – hardly a good way to increase Irish jobs,’ Mrs O’Brien continued.

Minister Hogan’s decision goes again the government’s commitment to introduce a packaging levy as stated in their Programme for Government.

Regarding the decision on a container deposit and return system, Mrs O’Brien said, ‘A container deposit and return system is the only way to change public behaviour. That’s been proven in many countries.’

Sweden, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands have container deposit and return systems with return rates of 84%, 90%, 92% and 95% respectively. In Norway, the return rate is positively linked to the beverage excise levy – in other words, if the public return more containers, they pay less for the beverage.

‘Ireland’s recycling rate for PET bottles is an abysmal 29% and our aluminium can recycling is just over 50%,’ said Mrs O’Brien. ‘We can do much better with feedstock that is fully recyclable.’

Plastic bottles make up 83% of marine litter on Irish beaches, according to the 2012 Coastwatch Marine Survey.

A container deposit and return scheme supports the government’s commitment towards the ‘polluter pays’ principal. It puts the cost of managing waste on the producer rather than on the consumer or government which needs to pay for litter clean-up.

The Environmental Pillar’s submission to the 2011 public consultation on a proposed packaging levy can be viewed here.

The Minister’s announcement can be viewed here.

The Programme for Government states:

Sustainable waste policy

We will develop a national waste policy that will adhere to the EU waste hierarchy and favours a coherent approach to waste management that minimises waste going to landfill, and that maximises the resources that can be recovered from it.

We will drive a waste reduction programme through extension of producer responsibility initiatives and a levy on packaging after appropriate consultation with industry.