Dáil Éireann - Volume 584 - 27 April, 2004
Written Answers. - Waste Management.
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
 828. Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans to encourage the reduction of packaging in consumer products to assist the battle against litter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11994/04]
Mr. Cullen Mr. Cullen
Mr. Cullen: Article 18 of European Parliament and Council Directive 1994/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste prohibits member states from impeding the placing on the market of packaging that satisfies the provisions of the directive. In other words, that which is in accordance with the essential requirements specified in Annex II of the directive as to the composition and the reusable and recoverable nature of packaging.
I share the Deputy’s concern about the excessive packaging of goods. It is generated through a combination of poor packaging design, inefficient production or manufacturing processes and unsustainable consumption patterns such as purchasing excessively packaged products. Taking action to prevent waste being generated is fundamental to the overriding objective of decoupling economic growth from growth in waste. Ireland is particularly disadvantaged in the prevention and minimisation of packaging because approximately 75% of the packaging placed on the market here is imported in association with imported goods.
The principle of producer responsibility requires waste producers to contribute to the waste management costs of products that they have placed on the market at end-of-life. This approach is supported by the producer responsibility initiative for packaging waste that operates here. It is underpinned by the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2003 that replaced earlier regulations introduced in 1997. Under the regulations, producers are required to take steps to recover packaging waste or alternatively to contribute to, and participate in, compliance schemes set up to recover packaging waste.
Repak Limited was established by Irish industry in 1997 to promote, co-ordinate and finance the collection and recovery of packaging waste. This was done with a view to achieving Ireland’s packaging waste recovery and recycling targets under European Parliament and Council Directive 1994/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. It is the only approved compliance scheme. The company’s primary role is to support the recycling of packaging waste rather than packaging minimisation. A fees structure applies to its members and is based on the type and amount of packaging placed on the market. It reflects the polluter pays principle and directly promotes the minimisation and reuse of packaging by producers.
Earlier this month I launched an ambitious national waste prevention programme. It aims to  deliver significant improvements in waste prevention and minimisation across all waste streams, including packaging. A core prevention team within the EPA will lead the programme. It must develop the programme in consultation with other stakeholders. The environment fund will provide €2 million in 2004.
In March 2002 the successful environmental levy on plastic bags was introduced. It resulted in a reduction in the dispensing of plastic shopping bags at retail outlets by over 90%. An Agreed Programme for Government contained a commitment to consider its extension to other materials that may be problematic from a waste management or litter perspective. In July 2003 a report was issued by the litter monitoring body, that is co-ordinated by my Department. It provided valuable statistical data on litter pollution in Ireland. Fast food take-away bags and wrappers were identified as the largest litter component in the packaging litter category. Chewing gum and automated teller machine receipts were also identified as problematic. As a result, I announced my intention to take measures to tackle litter caused by such items. In September 2003 I commissioned a consultancy study to analyse and recommend appropriate economic instruments, including environmental levies and negotiated agreements with the relevant sectors, that might be implemented. Recently a report was presented to me and I am considering it at present.
Dáil Éireann 584 Written Answers. Waste Management.