In a circular economy, waste and resource use are minimised and the focus is to reduce our consumption-based emissions. The use and value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible. When a product has reached the end of its life its parts are used again and again – to create further useful products, instead of being discarded which is an all too familiar pattern now.
I believe that the measures in this Bill are of historic significance. We are starting at a logical point but with great ambition - to make Ireland the first country in the world to become a truly circular economy. The support of consumers, businesses, politicians and all concerned citizens will be crucial to the success of these important new measures. The changes will require adjustment in our thinking and our habits, from us all. The benefits to our environment and to our economy will be worth the effort.
Under the new legislation there will be a number of significant actions to move to a circular economy. Local Authorities will be allowed to use GDPR-compliant technologies such as CCTV to detect and prevent illegal dumping and littering, among other measures. There will also be a phasing out of single use cups as 200 million coffee cups end up in Irish landfills every year. My proposal, which I have confirmed with my Government colleagues, is to start with a 20c levy (the lowest level provided for in the legislation) on single use cups. Measures covering other single use packaging and items will follow.
Developments in France and other European countries have been closely watched and provide a valuable example and resource for Ireland as we move towards a more sustainable economy. As in France, a common-sense approach which stages changes over a period of years, is planned.
Following the passing of this bill, a Circular Economy Strategy has been produced which will include targets across a wide range of economic sectors, including construction, agriculture and packaging. The targets set goals to reduce material consumption, increase re-usable products and increase levels of repair of products.