In a move that has environmentalists cheering, Ireland recently overhauled its waste sector by announcing a ban on single-use plastics, including cutlery, straws, cups, food containers and cotton bud sticks. The initiative also called for doubling the rate of recycled material and is considering new levy requirements for non-recyclable plastics, such as those found in food packaging at groceries.

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Richard Bruton, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, explained that the new policies are part of the Irish government’s improved climate action campaign to eliminate unnecessary packaging, reduce food waste by 50 percent, improve plastic recycling by 60 percent and cut landfill disposal by 60 percent.

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In recent years, single-use plastic pollution has skyrocketed, prompting dismal reports that project an Earth of 2050 where our oceans are filled with more plastic than fish. Many people are realizing the urgency, and government officials are being pressured into addressing the plastic waste dilemma. Accordingly, the European Union has proposed banning single-use plastics — and Ireland is the latest EU member to join the bandwagon.

That the campaign to remove single-use plastics has already taken hold on the Emerald Isle is a profound step in the right direction. To date, it is estimated that every person in Ireland annually generates more than 400 pounds of waste packaging, of which 130 pounds are plastic, and these per capita statistics are above the EU average. Implementing this single-use plastic ban is expected to bring promising results to Ireland’s ongoing war on plastic pollution.

Bruton said, “All along the supply chain we can do better — 70 percent of food waste is avoidable, half of the material we use is not being segregated properly, two-thirds of plastic used is not on the recycling list and labels are confusing.”

For those sectors unable to readily comply with the ban, heavy environmental taxes will have to be paid. These tax levies are a further measure designed to deter the widespread use of single-use plastics, especially non-recyclable ones.

Conservation and ecology advocates are supportive of Ireland’s ban, confirming that plastic consumption must be reduced to safeguard the environment. Supporters also uphold that the cost of the added tax should reflect the dire impact single-use plastic has on the environment.

Of course, the issue is not without its critics, some of whom claim the tax would do little to alleviate environmental conditions but would instead disproportionately affect lower-income consumers.

Nonetheless, optimists assert that the Irish ban on plastic waste will mobilize a shift in industrial, business and consumer behavior that can ultimately contribute to a cleaner, greener Ireland, perhaps bringing the country closer to a sustainable Emerald Isle ideal.

Via EcoWatch, RTE and Irish Times

Image via Flockine