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Plastic Bags to Coffee Cups

The plastic bag levy resulted in a 95% reduction in the use of plastic bags. One of the principle aims of the Circular Economy Bill is to similarly discourage the use of a wide range of disposable plastic products. There will be a renewed focus for food businesses to continue its drive to reduce the use of plastics in order to prepare for regulatory change.

Single Use Plastics Directive

The Single Use Plastic (SUP) Directive forms part of the EU’s Plastic Strategy. It was transposed into Irish law on 3 July 2021 by the European Union (Single Use Plastics) Regulations 2021. The main aim of the SUP is the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, particularly marine litter.

SUP products are made wholly or partly from plastic and are typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before they are thrown away. The SUP Directive restricts ten such products from being placed on the market where there is an alternative material available. It also introduces measures to reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic.

Circular Economy Bill 2022

Section 11 (1) of the Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2022 sets out that an environmental levy will be chargeable and payable in respect of the supply to a customer in a retail premises of single-use cups, single-use containers and single-use packaging. In making regulations, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications (Minister) shall have regard to the material wastage associated with the single-use item. In addition, the Minister may make regulations to set levies on single-use items if he or she is satisfied that “a suitable re-usable alternative or a suitable alternative with a lower level of material wastage… is, or could be made, readily available”.

The amount of the levy for each single-use item shall be between 20 cents and €1.

Section 12 of the Bill proposes that the environmental levy shall be payable by the person who carries on the business of selling goods or products in or at such class of retail premises, prescribed for the purposes of the legislation.

Criminal Offences

The Bill proposes that it will be an offence to fail to pay a levy by virtue of regulations under Section 11 (1) or to comply with the terms and conditions relating to the payment of a levy.

The maximum penalties on summary conviction are €5,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment, and on conviction on indictment to a fine of €50,000 and/or two years imprisonment. There is an important rebuttable presumption in favour of the prosecution that the relevant single-use cup, container or packaging is in fact a single use product.

What Next?

The Circular Economy Bill is presently at the Fourth Stage before Dáil Éireann who are considering amendments to the Bill.

It is expected that the Bill will be signed into law by the end of 2022 and shortly after the Minister will make regulations listing specific single use products which will be liable to the environmental levy and fixing the price of each levy.

Business is already focused on reducing the use of plastics in anticipation of legislative change but more importantly to meet consumer focus on green credentials in their choice of retailer.

For more information, please contact a member of our Health & Prosecutions team.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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