Ireland has what it takes in the rubbish stakes

August 20, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Whilst the British government is good at talking about recycling initiatives and convincing us that change is on the horizon, the actual implementation is… well, a bit rubbish.

When it comes to the issue of recycling, it would appear that we Brits just do not get it. Already fresh recycling policies are flagging: supermarkets are failing to use recyclable packaging, shoppers are still able to use large quantities of low-cost (or free) plastic bags and our British beaches are transforming into plastic-littered landfill sites before our very eyes.

Times columnist, Melanie McDonagh, has highlighted "Britain’s poor recycling performance" in her latest article, "How Ireland cleaned up on recycling". The article explains how the Government of Ireland (Rialtas na hÉireann) has cunningly decided to wrestle the recycling dilemma by making people pay for the quantity of rubbish they dispose of. Rather than threatening to fine people if they accidentally put their paper in with their plastics, it is now Ireland’s policy to charge around £4 per rubbish bag. Not only does this mean that less plastic is produced and less money is spent on landfill sites, it also sends out a clear incentive to reduce the amount of rubbish people throw away on a day-to-day basis. McDonagh sums up her article well, concluding that if we are to change the way we see recycling, the government should "make us pay … it’s the only language we understand".

Whether or not we need to introduce a scheme similar to the aptly dubbed Recycle Bank is another question entirely. A number of people feel that the British government should follow the example of Ireland’s plastic bag ban. Rather than pussyfooting around and charging a measly 5p per shopping bag, British supermarkets should charge an amount that will force its customers to rethink the type of bags they use. Please click on the Bag it don’t bin it website to find out more.

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