Ireland unveils its first national circular economy strategy

Ireland announced its first national circular economy strategy, building on government goal reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

The government’s circular economy strategy aims to meet commitments made in the Irish Government’s Agenda for Government and Climate Act 2021. It combines a shift away from fossil fuels, which covers 55% of targeted emissions, with circularity in manufacturing, which addresses 45% remaining, according to the Irish government.

The transition of all sectors of the economy towards circularity is a specific commitment described in the National Action Plan on Waste for a Circular Economy (WAPCE). It calls for policy coherence across government to ensure that “all policy levers are directed towards the same sustainable goals”. The focus is shifted from waste disposal to resource conservation, with the establishment of a concrete policy framework ensuring that a vision of circularity can be turned into “tangible actions and results”.

According to the report, “much of the specific context of circular economy activity in Ireland derives from EU policy and legislation”. The strategy is based on existing European initiatives aimed at realigning the economy towards a more circular model, including the European Green Deal, whose legislation resulted in the publication of the second circular economy action plan in March 2020 Quite appropriately, Dublin has also been selected as the host city for the European Circular Economy Hotspot in 2023.

Content of the report

The report sets out several goals for Ireland to fully achieve circularity.

  • Provide a national policy framework to support the transition to a circular economy and to “promote public sector leadership in adopting circular policies and practices”
  • Implement measures that significantly reduce Ireland’s circularity gap so that the national rate is above the EU average by 2030 – these measures will focus on production and consumption aspects durable
  • Raise awareness among households, businesses and individuals about the circular economy
  • Increase investments in the circular economy in Ireland, with a view to ‘achieving sustainable and regionally balanced economic growth and jobs’
  • Identify and overcome “the economic, regulatory and social obstacles to Ireland’s transition to a more circular economy”
  • Enact the circular economy bill, which will place the Circular Economy Strategy on a statutory basis, making the continued development of the circular economy policy a legal requirement of the Government.

The strategy defines the framework through which “all of these aspects can be addressed and, as the national circular economy policy develops, the ambition associated with equity and transparency will be the cornerstone of the approach. of Ireland ”.

A key aspect of the framework is the commitment to introduce a deposit and return system (DRS) for plastic bottles (up to three liters in volume) and aluminum cans. In October-November 2020, a public consultation was conducted on the design options for the SRD. On November 19, 2021, the Minister signed the regulations for a Deposit Return System (DRS) which will become operational in 2022.

Mícheál Martin, the current Taoiseach from Ireland, commented: “The shift to sustainable consumption and production requires a fundamental change in the way we live our lives, run our businesses and run government. Such a transformation requires unambiguous political direction and support from across government. This first whole-of-government circular economy strategy will meet this requirement.

“The circular economy is as much a social and economic agenda as an environmental agenda, and will allow us to transform our climate and environmental challenges into opportunities for all.

Minister Ossian Smyth, TD Irish Green Party, said: “This strategy aims to define what the circular economy is and what it means for Ireland. Almost as important, it illustrates what the circular economy is not.

“The circular economy is not just about better waste management or less plastic pollution or better recycling rates. The circular economy is about looking at our ‘throwaway’ economy and recognizing that there is a better way, that it is possible to break the cycle of extracting unnecessary resources, unsustainable consumption and unnecessary disposal. Environmental degradation should not be the inevitable consequence of economic growth.

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