TCD Plastic Solutions call for clarity on programme for government’s environment plans

The group contacted leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party Ireland to seek clarity on waste reduction issues

TCD Plastic Solutions have published a letter directed to the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party calling for clarity on environmental issues in response to their proposed programme for government. 

Earlier this week, the party leaders agreed on a programme for government, which, if approved by the parties’ members, will be “the foundation of the new Government’s agenda for the next five years”, writes the TCD Plastic Solutions letter. 

The document, which comprises over 50,000 words, mentions a Waste and Circular Economy Action Plan under its climate subheading. The plan aims to better manage waste in Ireland and outlines several long-term solutions, including hopes to “better inform consumers about the carbon footprint of products”, develop a “municipal compost system for biodegradable packaging”, and “introduce a deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and aluminium cans”. 

TCD Plastic Solutions picked up on the latter promise in particular, praising the commitment to such plans but questioned the “lack of timelines or specific funding allocations”. In the letter to Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar, and Eamon Ryan, TCD Plastic Solutions asks “to ensure implementation, will the new Government commit to approving this essential piece of legislation?” in relation to the 2018 Green part Waste Reduction Bill, which called for a ban on single-use plastics and the implementation of a deposit-and-return scheme.

While TCD Plastic Solutions commends the five-year plan’s “commitment to end the issuing of new licenses for exploration and exploitation of gas,” given that “the plastic crisis is rooted in the fossil fuel industry”, they demand that the measures “be complemented by legislation that bans all new fossil fuel infrastructure”. 

In a statement on social media accompanying the letter, TCD Plastic Solutions wrote: “Policy promises mean nothing until they are implemented.” Although the group welcomed the plan’s dedication to certain aspects of the climate crisis, they wrote that “we don’t think it goes far enough” because “the language is noncommittal and leaves room for escape”. 

Speaking to Trinity News, TCD Plastic Solutions member and Chair of Trinity Young Greens Julie Smirnova said that the aim of TCD Plastic Solutions’ proposal was to “highlight that the PfG uses all the right words, but without timelines and cost breakdowns those words are unlikely to translate into legislative action”.

“Barring the Microbeads (Prohibition) Act 2019 which aims to reduce microplastic pollution, the Irish government has failed to act on the plastic crisis – just as it has failed to act on the climate, biodiversity, health and housing crises,” Smirnova outlined. “What we’re really good at is commissioning reviews and signing up to international agreements that we have absolutely no intention to follow through on.”

“The plastic and climate movements are fighting the same fight, and it’s time the Government starts listening to them. Political will can turn the tide on plastic pollution by halting fossil fuel extraction – without it, a clean and healthy planet is just a pipedream,” she continued. “Let’s hope that if this PfG passes, we’ll see some real action.”

Members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party are due to vote on the programme this week, with the results expected on June 26.

Audrey Brown

Audrey Brown is a Senior Fresher English Studies student, and the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News.