Chambers Ireland calls on Government to be ambitious in plans to tackle waste

With the deadline for submissions to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment’s proposed environmental levies consultation closing today (20 December 2019), Chambers Ireland’s submission calls on the Government to recognise the urgency in changing our consumption patterns by introducing more stringent environmental levies to tackle waste problems in Ireland. However, such an approach must support, not punish, business innovation and those who are leading the way in a transition to a more circular economy.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot called on the Minister to be ambitious in developing policies to reduce waste and change consumption patterns.

“With the Christmas period in full swing, we are reminded of the need to be more responsible in our consumption choices and reduce waste where possible. Therefore, Government action in addressing excessive waste is welcomed by the business community. However, initial proposals from Minister Bruton’s Department lack the appropriate supports to incentivise business to properly transition to a more circular model.

While the proposed increase in levies on single-use plastic bags, coffee cups, food packaging containers and waste recovery is a step in the right direction in tackling waste, the initial proposals do not go far enough to progress the radical behavioural change we will need to see to meet our climate and waste targets.

The proposal for the introduction of a “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups is concerning, as there is no distinction made between unrecyclable materials, and those that are more sustainable.

Many businesses, notably SMEs, have been leading the way in recent years in making radical changes to their supply chains by moving to more sustainable, compostable materials. By failing to make distinctions between environmentally conscious businesses, and those who have not made the same investments, Government risks punishing innovation and climate leadership, rather than incentivising it.

In our recommendations, we call on the Department to consult with businesses and agree a date in the medium term (3 to 5 years) on which single-use plastic bags and single-use non-recyclable coffee cups and food packaging containers could be banned. In the transition, levies on each of these products should be charged at a higher rate. This revenue could then be ringfenced and reinvested into more appropriate waste disposal infrastructure, advancing the transition to a circular economy envisaged in the Climate Action Plan 2019. Exemptions from the levy should be given to businesses who have changed their packaging to recyclable and compostable materials.

As Ireland’s largest business network, we recognise our responsibility to lead the way in influencing business to transition to sustainable circular models of doing business. That is why earlier this year, on the fourth anniversary of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all affiliated Chambers of Commerce across Ireland announced that they had signed a pledge giving their commitment to uphold, communicate and implement the SDGs throughout their work. This pledge demonstrates that Chambers of all sizes are prepared to take the lead on climate action and advance sustainable development.

Our submission to the DCCAE further highlights our commitment to the SDGs and underlines the need for competitiveness, certainty and long-term workability for business and consumers alike to achieve this goal of transitioning to a circular economy.”