The law and politics of single-use plastic

Niamh Quinlan

A seminar on plastic reduction policies was held in the U on Wednesday last.

The talk combines business, science and law to explain to the audience as consumers of plastic about the biological effects some plastics may have on your own body, the current implementation for single-use plastic reductions and how you yourself can help to reduce your single-use plastic consumption.

Pamela Ozores-Diez, one of the panellists, went into detail about the chemicals released by the additives, used to change the colour for example, of some plastics. She discussed how, under stress, the additives, leaks chemicals into the environment, how that disrupts the environment and how it can affect our health.

These additives can cause developmental and behavioural issues; diabetes and obesity; cancer; and infertility.
Paul McDonald, the Principal Policy Officer at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, discussed the Climate Action Plan 2019, published in June of this year.

He focused on waste management, how commercial industries are doing a lot and what we ourselves can do to cut down on plastic uses. Using the example of a hard, heavy plastic printer, he criticised our “take, make and throw it away” attitude.

“It’s not sustainable,” he said, “[to] take something out of the ground, make something with it, when it’s done, you [throw] it away.”

Currently, Ireland is meeting a lot of targets with regard “recycling and so on,” however our downfall is single-use plastics. Ireland is paired with Estonia in claiming the title of the two biggest users of plastic packaging in the EU.

Dr Diarmuid Torney, an Associate Professor at the school and Law of Government in DCU discussed the current reactions of consumers and their needed actions in response to the current implementations against single-use plastics.

He raised the point of the possibility that any coffee cup levy could be “absorbed” into the actual price of the coffee and consumers simply paying the extra cent, and they regarding it as just the price of coffee going up.

While revering the use of reusable cups, he reminded his audience that if a reusable cup is where the consumer public stops then “we are in more trouble than we [thought].”

The event was organised by the Dublin Law and Politics Review, as part of their series of monthly seminars on “Policies in Perspective.”

Niamh Quinlan

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