BUDGET 2018: Environmentalists support SocDems call for plastic tax

Immediate Release
Ireland’s leading environmental coalition welcomes the Social Democrats inclusion of a levy on single-use and non-recyclable plastics in the party’s pre-Budget submission.
Launched this morning, the party’s submission states that the two environmental levies would bring in €2 million in revenue, while also helping reduce the use of plastics across society. [1]
The Pillar – a coalition of 26 environmental organisations – backs this move, and believes that the taxing of environmentally damaging practices should be a key initiative of Budget 2018.
We also believe, however, that the Government can go much further and should bring in a levy on all single-use non-compostable items which would net the State additional revenue and encourage behavioural change as we saw with the plastic bag levy.
As outlined in our pre-budget submission, the levy would include items such as disposable coffee cups, plastic packaging and cutlery, and follow best practice from other EU member states. [2]
We estimate that the levy on disposable coffee cups alone would bring in more than €25m per year, until consumer behaviour changes and then this amount, hopefully, will fall.
For the time being, we are still a long way off reducing the amount of waste packaging we generate and the amount of single-use disposable items discarded in this country.
For example, during a recent week-long Spring Clean in Limerick and Kerry, volunteers collected 160 tonnes of rubbish, of which over 300,000 coffee cups were collected. [3]
There are now over five trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in the ocean weighing the equivalent of almost 25,000 Dublin buses. [4]
The Pillar’s proposal would bring in additional revenue for the Environmental Fund, which supports many of Ireland’s environmental activities, from EPA’s waste prevention office to limited funding to the environmental NGO community.
Established in 2002 and financed through the plastic bag levy and landfill levy, the fund has dwindled peak of €62 million in 2011 to €46 million in 2015 as a result of behavioural change away from plastic bag use and a move away from landfills towards incineration. [5]
Mindy O’Brien, budgetary spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar, said:
“What we are proposing is a shift in the thinking around tax in Ireland. If we want to build a sustainable future our Budget needs to do more than just raise taxes. It needs to change people’s behaviour and the behaviour of business as well.
“Our proposal will bring in a significant chunk of revenue for the State, while also steering people towards more environmentally friendly behaviour, save in clean-up costs, and reduce the scourge of plastic litter seen across the country.
“Budget 2018 is a chance to make amends for last year’s missed opportunity to prepare our economy for the impact of climate change and protect our environment into the future.
“Every year we delay laying out a vision for the future, the less we will be able to cope in a low-carbon society. This future is coming and now is the time to change.”
[1] Social Democrats. Alternative Budget 2018: https://goo.gl/3zByU1
[2] Our submission outlines three key proposals to protect our natural environment, bring in over €200m in additional revenue, and bolster an ailing Environment Fund: https://goo.gl/1hWwAK
Implementation of a single-use non-compostable item levy
Adoption of an aggregates levy
Equalisation of price for diesel and petrol
[3] Mindy O’Brien before the Oireachtas Joint Budget Committee, 31 May 2017: https://goo.gl/TxbwCz
[4] World Economic Forum.  The New Plastics Economy: https://goo.gl/HP2etN
[5] Environmental Fund Account 2015: https://goo.gl/Kmo4DR