Sherlock welcomes cross-party unity on waste reduction

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Cork East TD Sean Sherlock has urged the government to back joint Labour and Green Party proposals for waste reduction in plastics.

“A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and that the figure will jump by another 20% by 2021,” said Deputy Sherlock in the debate.

“More than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 and that this is up from 300 billion a decade ago. As we know, most bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate, which is recyclable, but, the article continues, as their use soars across the globe, it is impossible to keep apace with that use by collecting and recycling them in order to keep them from polluting in the way that they do, in particular the oceans.”

“Plymouth University has reported that plastic was found in one third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish, and that the European Food Safety Authority has called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety. Therefore, it is not just an environmental issue; it is a human health issue too. The authority called for this research “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”. Plastics cannot be assimilated into the food chain. That is self-evident. We know that. Where they are ingested, they carry toxins that work their way quite literally onto our plates.”

Deputy Sherlock welcomed the cross-party unity on the issue.

“What we have here is a rare outbreak of co-operation and we should embrace it. I understand the Government has legitimate questions about the inherent costs but the legislation can be worked on. I would also welcome any move to work with entities such as Retail Ireland and Repak. It is time for us, as a Parliament, to re-engage with Repak, perhaps through the committee structure, because we have legitimate questions

Deputy Sherlock also urged further engagement with beverage companies and how they operate in the market.

“We also need to engage with the beverage companies. If one goes into a bar or any good hostelry and looks behind the bar, alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages are not being sold out of a plastic container but a glass container. If that can be done in all the bars in Ireland, I do not see why we cannot move towards a glass-based approach for the beverages that are sold by what I call the multiples in this country, that is, by the supermarkets.”

“If we are imaginative and think laterally about how we want to proceed, we can achieve a lot. However, this goes back to the fact it is impossible at the moment to keep apace with the level of production of plastics. There is more being produced than is being recycled. We need to do something. There needs to be some positive disruption to that dynamic. We are a maritime nation and, as one, we may think the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea, St. George’s Channel and the Celtic Sea – however one might want to term those passages of water – are pristine. However, as someone who has an interest in sea-kayaking, I see on the water first hand the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans and, ultimately, in our food chain. We do not want to go there from a public health point of view. For all sorts of environmental reasons, we need to be smart about this.”