False fact on plastic packaging waste

There has been good news about the way in which the country has been tackling its plastic packaging problem.

The Environmental Protection Agency told an Oireachtas committee that 34% of plastic waste in 2015 was recycled, comfortably ahead of the current European Union target of 22.5%.

But there is trouble ahead: the EU is proposing a new, wildly ambitious target of 55%, to be met by 2025.

So, much, much more has to be done, given that the option of dumping tonnes of stuff in China is no longer available.

Consumers can play a limited part; by, when possible, selecting goods that are not swathed in plastic, and in cafes by asking for paper cups and straws. 

It won’t make a decisive difference, but it will send ripples of pressure.

A difficulty with the waste narrative is the implication that the problem has been created by consumers, who often have no choice but to buy stuff sealed or contained in plastic, and then have the audacity to chuck it away.

This mindset can be seen in the fines regime for householders who do not sort trash in the prescribed manner.

Ireland, we are told by finger-wagging experts, is the EU’s chief offender, turning out annually 61kg of plastic waste per person. That is a fake fact. 

Packaging policies are made not by consumers but manufacturers, and the stuff is passed on willingly by wholesalers, distributors and retailers. 

They, not consumers, should be made to feel the pressure for change.

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