Environment Minister has said bottle deposit and return scheme would be ‘financially reckless’

Environment Minister Denis Naughten has said it would be financially reckless to move ahead with a bottle deposit and return scheme.

He wants the Dáil to freeze legislation introducing any change until likely costs could be examined.

The minister was responding to a joint Green Party and Labour Party motion seeking to ban the cups.

However, Mr Naughten said that without a complete understanding of the cost implications on the taxpayer, employers, retailers and customers, “it would be financially reckless for me to proceed with its introduction here without proper scrutiny”.

“I will not create another PPARS or another e-voting machine fiasco,” he said.

The principal aim behind the bill is one that all in the House agree with, said Mr Naughten; namely, to reduce levels of plastic waste in the environment, particularly rivers, lakes and oceans.

He said there are elements of the bill that are problematic for the Government.

“The lack of clarity on the costs associated with the introduction of a deposit-and-return scheme concerns me,” he said.

During the debate, Labour leader Brendan Howlin quoted a statistic where deposit-and-return systems have been introduced internationally. He said the recycling rate can be up at 90%.

“However, he did not mention that is only correct where there is no existing infrastructure,” Mr Naughten said. “The five EU countries that have deposit-and-return systems have had them for some time and did not have an alternative existing infrastructure. This is not the situation here in Ireland.

“Deputy [Eamon] Ryan, when introducing the mill, suggested the scheme would cost €276m. A study investigating the possible introduction in the UK puts a figure of €790 million per year. These are enormous amounts.

“Before we spend even a fraction of this on its introduction, we need to ascertain what the benefits would be. I am watching with interest a proposal in Scotland to introduce a scheme there. It is of particular interest, given that Scotland currently operates a producer-responsibility initiative as we do here in Ireland.”

In raising questions about the costs of implementing the bill, the minister referred to a 2009 waste management policy review, commissioned by then minister for environment and Green Party leader John Gormley.

The report did not support a scheme because the costs could not “be said to unequivocally justify the benefits”.

The minister said he was looking at a scheme under consideration in Scotland where the cost would be over €88m at a minimum.

The PPARS scheme was a controversial computer payroll system for the health service that cost an estimated €113m including €70m for consultants.

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