Eoghan Dalton Reports

One of the greatest disasters that ever struck this country was when it stopped using milk bottles, a Council meeting heard last week. Veteran Councillor James Tobin (FF) lamented the switch to single use plastic during the gathering in City Hall: “Milk tastes an awful lot better out of a glass bottle and we should be trying to promote that.”Cllr Lola O’Sullivan (FG) quickly added that there are businesses in her native Tramore which still provide milk in glass bottles.
The exchange was a moment of light relief during a discussion of the Council’s policy to end the use of single use plastics.

The policy was adopted at the monthly meeting of Waterford City and County Council (WCCC) last Thursday, 13th February. The aim is to eliminate single use plastics from all Council buildings, hired venues, catering and all events organised by WCCC.
In addition, all events licensed or funded by WCCC will be required to demonstrate measures to eliminate single use plastics and segregation of waste during and after the event and subsequent disposal.

“Plastic is designed to last forever but is often used just once. Single-use plastic includes products such as straws, bottles, cups and cutlery; any plastic item that’s made for temporary use”, said Fergus Galvin, Director of Services for Roads, Water and Environment, in a statement.
“Although we might not think much of it when we buy bottles of our favourite drink or buy a sandwich in a plastic box, these choices have a serious impact on the health of our planet and ourselves. “This policy enables us to say a firm ‘no’ to single use plastics in our organisation. We are now building on the existing ban on single use bottles and cups in the Council Chambers by extending a ban on all single use plastics across the range of Council buildings and events.”

The background to the local adoption is that, in January 2018, the European Commission adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics.
The strategy envisages that all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of micro plastics will be restricted.

This strategy will transform the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. In January 2019, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Minister Richard Bruton announced that government departments, public bodies, and schools will lead the way in the response to cutting down on single use plastics, with a number of measures, including no longer purchasing single-use plastic cups, cutlery and straws for use within their offices.

The single-use plastics directive which was adopted in May 2019 builds on the EU’s existing waste legislation but goes further by setting stricter rules for those types of products and packaging which are among the top ten most frequently found items polluting European beaches. The new rules ban the use of certain throwaway plastic products for which alternatives exist. In addition, specific measures are introduced to reduce the use of the most frequently littered plastic products.