Ireland’s circular economy law targets illegal dumping and disposable cups

22 Jul 2022

Image: © TSUNG-LIN WU/

The act allows for levies to be introduced on all single-use packaging, while giving local authorities the power to use tech to tackle illegal dumping and littering.

A new act has been signed into law that aims to move Ireland towards a more circular economy.

The Circular Economy and Miscellaneous Provisions Act aims to phase out a range of single-use products over time while promoting activities that minimise waste and resource use, in a bid to keep materials active for as long as possible.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD, said it is possible to move away from single-use and throwaway materials and goods through economic incentives and smarter regulation.

“We have to rethink the way we interact with the goods and materials we use every day, if we are to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, because 45pc of those emissions come from producing those goods and materials.”

One of the act’s early goals is to make Ireland one of the first countries in the world to eliminate the use of disposable coffee cups. It is estimated that around 200m of these cups are sent to landfill or incineration every year in Ireland.

A ban on these cups is planned later this year for sit-in customers in cafés and restaurants. There are also plans to bring in a charge on disposable cups for takeaway drinks, similar to the existing plastic bag levy.

The new act sets the foundation for levies to be introduced on “all single-use packaging”.

The circular economy act also has a focus on waste enforcement, giving local authorities the power to use CCTV to tackle illegal dumping and littering and discourage activities such as fly-tipping.

“The act gives local authorities the power to responsibly use CCTV and other recording technologies to tackle illegal dumping and littering in local communities, but does so in a way that includes very strong privacy safeguards and is fully compliant with data protection law,” said Minister of State Ossian Smyth, TD.

The act also tackles fossil fuels, as it ends the issuing of new licences for the exploration and mining of coal, lignite and oil shale.

Provisional figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week showed Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by nearly 5pc last year and have risen above pre-Covid levels.

The EPA noted that this rise was largely due to the energy industries sector, which tripled its oil and gas use in electricity generation last year. But agriculture was the largest contributor to overall emissions in Ireland.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic