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Minister in favour of 'naming and shaming' supermarkets that fail to reduce plastic packaging

Minister Richard Bruton says he is willing to take a tougher stance on supermarkets who fail to pull their weight when it comes to reducing plastics.

Image: Shutterstock/Goncharov_Artem

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER RICHARD Bruton has said more punitive measures, such as a ‘name and shame’ approach, could be on the way for supermarkets that do not sign up to plastic reduction pledges. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties in Donegal, the minister said the government will be taking a tougher stance on retailers, supermarkets as well as manufacturers.

“Yes, we will take a tougher stance,” he said, adding that the government will be changing the fee structures so that companies will pay higher fees for waste that is difficult to manage.

“We will be seeking for more carbon pledges or plastic pledges from companies who are in the retail and manufacturing area so this is an area where we can set very strong ambitions,” he added. 

When asked if a ‘name and shame’ approach of supermarkets that aren’t pulling their weight could be on the cards, the minister replied:

“Yes, I think that will be an element of this. It will be about getting people to sign up to pledges for change, it will be charging those but it will also be empowering consumers because I think it is consumers that are really driving this agenda.”

He said the first step being taken with supermarkets is the modulating of the fees structure for waste collection “so those with an excess or non-recyclables will be paying more, but we will proceed if necessary by regulation”, he added.

In 2017, the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten announced Eamonn Quinn as the chair of the government’s action group on food waste in the retail sector.

The initiative aimed to encourage supermarkets to lead the way in the reduction of food wastage, with all the big players in the food retail industry urged to sign up and examine the solutions.

At the time, Naughten said he wanted all supermarkets to sign up to the Food Waste Charter for Ireland in a bid to tackle waste and plastic packaging. While the move was welcomed, the initiative was a voluntary opt-in measure, with some criticisms levelled at supermarket chains that failed to sign up to the cause. 

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The government is now considering introducing levies on disposable items where sustainable alternatives are available.

A report, with input from the EPA will be submitted to the minister by the end of the year on what new environmental fines or charges should be imposed, including a possible levy on single-use plastics. It is understood Bruton will consider this review once received in the coming weeks. 

Thomas Burke, the director of Retail Ireland – a lobby group that is part of Ibec – told TheJournal.ie previously that Irish retailers have been working hard over recent months to review their use of plastic in the packaging and transport of products they sell.

“In response to consumer requests and in line with environmental best practice, retailers have made a range of commitments to ensure all plastic packaging placed on the market is recyclable within the coming years and conforms with emerging legislation in the area as laid out in the EU Directive on Single Use Plastics,” he said.

A recent FactCheck by TheJournal.ie found that many supermarkets have said they’re committed to tackling the issue of plastic packaging but there is no provision within the law requiring them to accept customers’ packaging in store.

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