Responding to questions in the Dail yesterday on plans to reduce plastic packaging, the Minister for the Environment, Denis Naughten, TD, said that he no longer plans to introduce a levy on single-use compostable coffee cups as retailers move to introduce compostable cups.
He also said that he has also asked his officials to set up a pilot deposit-refund scheme and has asked the Joint Committee on Climate Action and Environment to “look at the merits” of a national scheme.
While the Environmental Pillar welcomes the announcement to bring in a pilot deposit and refund scheme, we are very concerned with the dropping of the latte levy for compostable cups.
With an estimated two million disposable coffee cups a day in Ireland going into landfills, waste from the café sector has reached worrying proportions.
The Minister said yesterday that he is still considering levies on many single-use plastic items including non-recyclable cups.
However, while compostable coffee cups are generally biodegradable, they are still single-use disposable packaging materials.
They are not the silver bullet to solve the issue of coffee cup waste as they require commercial composting to biodegrade and most end up in general landfill anyway due to a lack of public awareness on how to properly dispose of them.
In addition, if compostable cups are placed in recycling bins, they can end up contaminating recycled paper streams and end up in incineration or landfill alongside traditional disposable cups.
By dropping the proposal for a levy on biodegradable cups as they become more popular, we are missing an opportunity to support several governmental priorities, namely waste prevention, the Circular Economy model, and the Polluter Pays principle, as well as an opportunity to bring in additional revenue for the Environmental Fund.
Environmental Pillar spokesperson and co-coordinator of the Sick of Plastic Campaign, Mindy O’Brien, said:
“We are disappointed, to say the least, that proposals for a levy on biodegradable compostable coffee cups at the point of sale appear to have been dropped by the Minister.
“A levy works on the basis it is visible and allows consumers to make the choice of bringing their own containers.
“It would make consumers think about the packaging and single-use items they use and hopefully encourage them to make choices that would reduce the use of such items.
“While more and more coffee shops are introducing compostable cups, the average punters don’t know this when they buy their coffee, and most cups still end up in landfill or at recycling facilities where they can contaminate recycled paper streams.”
Environmental Pillar spokesperson and co-coordinator of the Sick of Plastic Campaign, Oisin Coghlan:
“While we welcome the decision to set up a pilot deposit and refund scheme, we would urge the State to push forward with a permanent solution as soon as possible.
“The benefits of such a scheme are already well established from examples in numerous EU states so it’s high time that we move forward and work to reduce the levels of plastic waste ending up in the environment, and move towards a more sustainable, circular economy.
“We’re not going to be able to get rid of all packaging but it’s time to turn the tide on ever-increasing waves of it and to give consumers the choice and the ability and to make it as convenient as possible for us to do the right thing.”