Ireland will introduce ambitious new targets to tackle waste and move towards a circular economy under a new plan announced last week by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Eamon Ryan TD. The plan includes halving our food waste by 2030, the introduction of a deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and cans, a ban on certain single use plastics from July 2021, and a levy on disposable cups. Other measures include applying green criteria and circular economy principles in all public procurement, a waste recovery levy to encourage recycling, and ensuring all packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2030.
By 2050, we will need three planet earths to meet our resource demands in a business-as-usual scenario. A transition to a circular economy offers the possibility of a sustainable alternative future and is a fundamental step towards achieving climate targets. This action-focused plan will place Ireland at the vanguard of EU efforts. This new policy will require us to move beyond a position of merely managing waste, to where we question our use of resources and materials, how to reconsider product design to reduce waste generation and how we extend the productive life of the goods and products that we use.
The overarching objectives in the action plan are:
- To shift the focus away from waste disposal and treatment to ensure that materials and products remain in productive use for longer – thereby preventing waste and supporting re-use through a policy framework that discourages the wasting of resources and rewards circularity
- To make producers who manufacture and sell disposable goods for profit environmentally accountable for the products they place on the market
- To ensure that measures support sustainable economic models (for example by supporting the use of recycled over virgin materials)
- To harness the reach and influence of all sectors including the voluntary sector, R&D, producers / manufacturers, regulatory bodies, civic society
- To support clear and robust institutional arrangements for the waste sector, including through a strengthened role for local authorities
Some of the measures can be implemented immediately. Others require legislative or institutional change. The Minister recently signed three Regulations transposing EU Directives which will form the legislative foundation for Circular Economy provisions, while a new Waste Management (Circular Economy) Bill will be introduced for national measures. The work of the cross-sectoral Waste Advisory Group which has assisted in developing this plan will move now towards supporting its implementation.
The key targets under the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy are:
Construction and Demolition Waste
- Revision of the 2006 Best Practice Guidelines for C&D waste.
- Streamline by-product notification and end-of-waste decision making processes.
- Working group to develop national end-of-waste applications for priority waste streams.