Minister vows action on shower gel, electric cars and food waste

A tube of exfoliating shower gel might look harmless enough to the average punter, but it may contain microbeads — tiny, but lethal, particles of plastic.

A few handfuls of such gel can send up to 10,000 of the non-biodegradeable beads into the sea, where marine life mistake them for microplankton, eat them, think they are full and end up dying through lack of nutrition, while disturbing the sensitive and hugely important marine eco-system.

Minister for Climate Change Denis Naughten wants such products, being banned in the UK and US, to be prohibited here.

“There is a role for the EU, but there is also a role to be played here in Ireland, so we can stop these microbeads getting into the water systems,” he said.

Meanwhile, despite the ESB spending up to €25m on rolling out a network of charging points and the Government offering a €5,000 grant towards the purchase of electric vehicles (EV), along with a lower car tax rate, their uptake has not taken off.

Just 357 of the 129,000 new cars sold so far this year are electric-powered, yet transport accounts for almost one-fifth of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Minister Naughten, in Brussels today for an OECD meeting, is to set up a task force “examining how to support the development of these cars”.

He will also consider allowing EVs to use bus lanes, as happens in parts of Scandinavia.

As part of his clampdown on emissions, he is also to ask the OECD to spearhead the development of technology that would allow NCT centres to read car microchips to record their emissions and service record. A microchip reading would dictate the rate of motor tax paid by the driver.

“There is an opportunity to look at actual emissions from vehicles rather than emissions at the time of manufacture, to look at how the car is driven and maintained and... to allow such people to pay lower [car] tax,” he said.

The minister also said Ireland, as a world player in food production, must play a role in tackling food waste.

“Up to €1m of food is wasted each year, yet people are going hungry every day. We need to look at sensible approaches to drive down food waste and benefit disadvantaged communities”.

Kate Ruddock, policy manager of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the minister’s enthusiasm, but suggested “he has far bigger decisions to make around emissions, including new feed-in tariffs for alternative energy, developing a solar energy programme and more community-based energy schemes”.


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