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Circular Economy Act signed into law with disposable cup levy due before end of year

The levy on disposable cups – the best-known feature of the act – aims to help phase out single-use products.

THE PRESIDENT HAS signed the Circular Economy Act into law, bringing to fruition a piece of legislation that is trying to reduce Ireland’s waste.

A 20c levy on disposable drink cups is set to be introduced by the end of this year in a bid to encourage people to use a reusable cup.

President Michael D Higgins signed the act into law yesterday after it passed through its final stages in the Dáil, allowing the government to introduce measures like using CCTV to prosecute illegal littering and mandatory segregation for commercial waste.

The levy on disposable cups – the best-known feature of the act – aims to help phase out single-use products.

It will begin with a ban on the use of disposable coffee cups for sit-in customers in cafés and restaurants and continue with a 20c charge on disposable takeaway cups.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland this morning, Minister of State for Circular Economy Ossian Smyth said that a public consultation on the plans will first take about 90 days.

“What we put in the law is not just about coffee cups, it’s any food packaging or any product packaging. If we find out that there is a good reusable alternative and we think it’s feasible to move to that, that we can put a small levy on something and we can encourage consumers to change,” Smyth said.

“We’re starting with coffee cups but before we do any of these levies, we have to have three months of consultation with the cafés, with the public and with the people who make cups to make sure that what we do is practical,” he said.

We’ve been through this process before with plastic bags 20 years ago and we made exceptions. We said that if you buy a plastic bag in a butcher or fishmonger, that you don’t have to pay the fee because you can’t reuse a bag that’s had meat or fish and so on.

The minister said the government intends to “take a very practical approach”.

“It’s going to have the effect of all these hundreds of millions of cups not being on the ground but fundamentally it is to remove the idea that we have manufacture and distribution of a product with natural resources that is then used for a couple of minutes. We want to get away from that,” he said.

“It’s to move away from a linear economy where you dig things out of the ground, make something and dispose of it to a circular economy where you treat your waste as a resource and your precious resources and money circulate in the local economy.”

On the use of CCTV against dumping and littering, he said: “In recent years, local authorities have not been able to convict people of dumping or littering because people challenge the evidence on the basis that it was a breach of their privacy.”

“What we were advised was we had to make a law that in certain circumstances, a local authority could collect CCTV, for example, in a litter blackspot, and they could use that in evidence against people who were intentionally fouling the landscape.”

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