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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Polluter Pays

A new plastic tax? You could soon be paying more for your takeaways and soft drinks

The Department of Environment is considering a plastic tax on fast-food containers, cans and plastic bottles.

THE DEPARTMENT OF the Environment is considering introducing a new tax on disposable fast-food containers, cans and plastic bottles.

As first reported in the Irish Times, the tax would be similar to the plastic bag levy introduced in 2002.

The new taxes are being considered partly due to falling revenue for the Environmental Fund. Currently, the fund consists of the ring-fenced income from the plastic bag levy and the landfill levy.

Falling Revenue

However, the fund has been a victim of its success. The Department of the Environment notes:

As economic instruments, the objective of these levies is to influence and change behaviour. Inevitably, the more successful these economic instruments are in achieving their environmental objectives… the less revenue is available to the Environmental Fund.

According to the Department of Environment, revenue to the fund was €65.7 million in 2012, €58.1 million in 2013, falling to €48.5 million in 2014 and €43.86 million in 2015.

The biggest fall has been in the landfill levy, with Ireland’s level of recycled waste now above the European average.

The plastic bag levy has also been effective, with the department estimating that in 2001 people used 328 bags a year. Now it is just 14 a year on average.

The Minister’s Brief from May says the review of the fund will:

Seek to identifying (sic) broader based revenue streams which could have the twin benefit of increasing income to the Fund and also positively influencing consumer behaviour e.g. to drive recycling of plastic bottles or cans, or to switch away from disposable fast-food containers.

The fund is used for initiatives such as Environmental Protection Agency research and development projects, enforcement of laws and raising environmental awareness. The Department also spent €147,081 in 2014 on the development of measures aimed at reducing climate change and pollution.

Altering behaviour

Mindy O’Brien, the coordinator of VOICE, says the environment charity has suggested introducing a packaging levy since 2011 “to alter consumer and business behaviour and to reflect the polluter pay principle.”

The fact is that much of this packaging is used for about ten minutes and then thrown away. As most people who use such packaging are on-the-go, there are very few incentives or infrastructure in place to collect and recycle this packaging… Much of this packaging is difficult to recycle as it is made of composite plastic. Most takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable due to the thin plastic liner.

She hopes that a tax would encourage people to avoid plastic packaging and bring their own reusable containers.

However, she suggests that a deposit/refund scheme, such as that used in some Australian states, be used for plastic bottles and cans as there are no alternative containers.

So what do you think? Should we introduce the tax?

Poll Results:

No (1627)
Yes (1302)
No, there should be a different measure (1077)
I don't know (96)

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