New environmental levies proposed to encourage more sustainable behaviour
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, T.D. today (Wednesday the 6th of November 2019) announced a number of proposed environmental levies to encourage more sustainable behaviour, which will now be put out to consultation.
Minister Bruton said,
"How we use and dispose of our resources is crucial – in fact it accounts for 60% of our emissions. We must be more conscious of the impact we are having by the daily choices we make.
"Sustainable alternatives exist for all the items we are purposing to levy and the purpose is to shift behaviour towards the use of these alternatives."
Today's action is a key action under the Government's Climate Action Plan, the government's plan to ensure we meet our 2030 climate commitments, putting us on a trajectory to be net zero by 2050.
The proposed first phase of levies is as follows:
- An increase to the existing Plastic Bag Levy from the current rate of 22c to 25c
- Expanding the Plastic Bag levy to include medium weight plastic bags (True 'bag for life' bags will remain exempt)
- A Waste Recovery Levy at €5 a tonne. This would apply to the three key waste recovery options – landfill, incineration and export
- An increase to the Landfill Levy by €5 per tonne to €80 per tonne
- A levy on disposable cups - the rate is to be determined following market research but likely to be 10c, 15c or 25c
On the introduction of a coffee cup levy, the Minister said:
"The introduction of a coffee cup levy has clear benefits for the environment, when you consider that 22,000 disposable coffee and tea cups are used every hour. Our first response must be to reduce the amount of waste created in the first place.
"The coffee cup levy should also lead to savings for consumers who make the switch, as well as savings for retailers who have to carry less disposable stock. In introducing a coffee cup levy, clear pricing information will be vital. Clear information regarding price will be important in driving change. We will call on shops to display pricing information so that their customers have full information on:
- Coffee price (i.e. where you have your keep cup)
- Added charge for using a single use cup (which would include the price of the disposable cup and the levy)
- Coffee price when the customer is sitting in using the premises' tableware"
Questions in relation to pricing will be included in the public consultation.
It is also proposed to develop a second phase of levies, to come into effect from 2022, which would focus on take away food containers, and a third phase which will address food packaging in retail outlets including for bakery items, fruit, vegetables etc. The exact scope and rate of such levies is to be developed but these items will also be included in the consultation being announced today.
All revenue raised from these measures will go into the Environment Fund and be reinvested in environmental action, such as tackling waste blackspots & litter community programmes such as the National Spring Clean initiative, Tidy Towns and the development of community areas and gardens.
Minister Bruton said:
"Climate disruption is the biggest challenge facing this generation. A tonne of food wasted or single use packaging tipped into a landfill, results in the 6 tonnes of carbon which it took to make that food or packaging, completely lost to the world. Even if such waste is not avoided, residual waste could be halved if businesses and homes put things in the right bin.
"These changes, we hope, will make people more conscious of this and will encourage people to make small changes such as bringing their own bags shopping, or their own cup when going for a coffee, that can make a difference. All of the funds collected will go back into environmental action. Industry too will be expected to make changes and we will be designing levies on food packaging and takeaway containers."
The Minister is now opening a consultation on the above proposals, which will remain open until 20th December 2019. Interested parties are welcome to submit, the consultation is now live at the following link: https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/consultations/Pages/Public-Consultation-on-the-Proposed-Introduction-of-New-Environmental-Levies.aspx
Note for Editors:
The Environment Fund, established under the Waste Management Act, 1996, as amended, is a positive example of the use of economic instruments to improve environmental outcomes, with revenues from environmental levies reinvested in actions which seek to provide support for environmental objectives such as community initiatives to improve the local environment, research, education, communication and waste recovery. The Fund is currently supported by levies on plastic bags and landfill waste. Since its inception in 2001, in excess of €830m (to December 2018) has been raised by the Environment Fund through these levies.
Decreasing numbers of landfill sites, from 89 in 1995 to just 3 in 2019, reflects the success of the levy approach.
Phase 1: Timeframe – 2020-2021
A. Increase plastic bag levy
B. Remove the current exemption from plastic bag levy enjoyed by medium weight plastic bags
C. Introduce a Waste Recovery Levy (would apply to landfill, incineration (both Waste to Energy Plants and cement kilns) and export).
D. Increase the Landfill levy (applies to waste disposal)
E. Introduce a flat levy on disposable cups ('Coffee Cup Levy')
Phase 2: Timeframe – 2022-2023
F. Develop proposals for the introduction of a levy on take away food containers
G. Review the operation of the Phase 1 levies and make adjustments as necessary
Phase 3: Timeframe – To be determined having regard to developments at EU level in relation to plastic packaging.
H. Develop proposals for the introduction of a levy on food packaging in retail outlets
I. Review the operation of the Phase 1 and 2 levies and make adjustments as necessary
J. Develop proposals for further levies for introduction, as appropriate