Time for Minister for the Environment To Introduce Refundable Charge on Drink Cans & Bottles

The recent ‘Gaillimh Suas Glan’ initiative coordinated by Galway City Council's Environmental Officer (Sharon Carrol) and City Parks , in conjunction with our group, the ‘Friends of the Forest’ was a very good example of the benefits of council-public co-operation. We are delighted with the response of Galway residents to the first monthly clean-up of the city’s green spaces that proved such a fine . Over a two hour period on a Sunday in November, thousands of pieces of litter were gathered from one section of the Terryland Forest Park. Beverage cans represented the largest class of items collected at 35% followed by drink bottles at 32%.
We are concerned though that legislation has not been introduced by the Minister of the Environment for a refundable levy on beverage cans and bottles. For there is a growing incidence of litter, particularly discarded drink containers, being dumped in our green areas that if left unabated will lead to an environmental disaster. Not only is this type of refuse undermining the beauty of our natural landscapes but it is also leading to a serious contamination of our waterways and the destruction of wildlife habitats.
Since July 2007 local community activists have been lobbying the Minister to introduce this levy. This policy has had considerable success elsewhere in Europe particularly in the Scandinavian countries. 90% of beer and soft drinks containers are returned in Sweden while the market share of non-returnable bottles in Finland is deliberately kept small at 5%. Furthermore, such a monetary pay-back scheme existed in Ireland until a few decades ago.
It is a win-win system for all concerned – local communities, local authorities, the environment, waste management and of course wildlife.The monies saved could be used to encourage greater public use of wonderful green spaces by funding the provision of park wardens, regular outdoor family events and park facilities such as picnic areas, community gardens and eco-learning centres.
But as of yet we have had no positive response from Minister John Gormley. His department recently informed us that the long overdue consultancy report on waste management is expected before Christmas. We earnestly hope that a Minister for the Environment, who is also leader of the Green Party, will take onboard a grassroots initiative that if implemented will help dramatically reduce litter pollution in Ireland.
Sadly it has been government’s own policies that have contributed to the polluting of our countryside, an associated rise in anti-social behaviour and an extra burden on our health services. Over the last decade, the unprecedented growth in off-licences selling cheap alcohol has led to an epidemic in under-age outdoor binge drinking that has undermined community spirit, destroyed peoples’ lives and polluted parks. It is time that the government introduced laws that will clean up the mess created by their own policies.

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