Ireland to introduce levies for hot and cold drinks cups

Ireland is to impose a charge on single-use coffee cups and plans to eliminate them from some towns, universities and commercial centres altogether.

The government also wants to extend the levy to cold drinks cups and prohibit the use of disposable cups at large events.

Through its new “waste action plan for a circular economy”, the government will also ban single-use cups for customers sitting-in. France announced similar plans earlier this year.

Outlets in Ireland will also be required to offer money off to customers who use reusables. The new plan commits to an “eventual full ban on disposable cups”. Campaigners welcomed the commitments, which they said “go beyond” the EU’s Single-use Plastics Directive.

Some 22,000 coffee cups are disposed of in Ireland every day, equivalent to a rate of six per second or 200 million annually.

“This isn't just a government, or green plan - it's everyone's plan, so let's move ahead and implement it together now,” tweeted Eamon Ryan, minister for communications, climate action and environment.

Other measures include a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans, a target to halve food waste by 2030 and the application of “green criteria and circular economy principles in all public procurement”.

The plan outlines how the government will comply with the EU’s Packaging and Single-use Plastics Directives. Various SUP items will be banned from July 2021, including cutlery, plates, stirrers, straws and expanded polystyrene food and drink containers.

Ireland also intends to use the SUP Directive to ban SUP hotel toiletries, as well as condiments and sugar sachets.

Dealing with single-use food containers will be less straightforward, the government said. The plan notes that “there is no ‘one size fits all’ in terms of reusable options for the myriad of food containers on the market” and this is “further complicated by the fact that replacement options must meet food grade quality”.

Work is therefore underway to identify the food containers for which consumption reduction measures can be introduced, which will lead to levies on some containers and the promotion of reusable alternatives. “We will legislate to ban their unnecessary use (such as sit-in cafés),” the plan states.

Sorcha Kavanagh, manager at the Conscious Cup Campaign, was involved in the cross-sectoral waste advisory group that helped develop the plan. She said the latte levy, which is due in 2022, will encourage consumer behaviour to change; industry will also need to work on developing communications and creating an infrastructure to enable that reuse, she added. “Designing out waste is the key to protecting our resources and the Irish Government has shown a commitment to go beyond the Single-use Plastics Directive.

The Foodservice Packaging Association was approached for comment. A spokesperson said they were looking at the details within the plan.

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