Extended corporate responsibility, a deposit return scheme, and laws banning the sale of some single-use plastic items are all options being weighed in Northern Ireland.

Plastic waste has long blighted many of the region’s most scenic rural spots and also poses a danger to marine wildlife.

The end of ‘make, take, dispose’

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said it was time to end the “make, take, dispose” attitude towards plastic in Northern Ireland and to make it a resource valued by society as it opens a call for evidence looking for ideas on how to eliminate plastic waste.

In Northern Ireland, 78% of all marine litter found on our beaches is made up of discarded plastics with around 80% of this originating from land-based sources.

The call for evidence document explained: “we must not demonise all plastic as it has many beneficial properties, for example, its uses in healthcare and for prolonging the life of food thus reducing food waste and the harmful carbon emissions that it causes.

“Rather, we need to address the throwaway culture around plastic and the pollution caused by this.”

The department hopes to be able to establish a circular economy for plastic, in which resources are put back into the economy, where they are reused, repurposed or recycled, keeping them in use for as long as possible, minimising the generation of waste.

Call for Evidence

DAERA hopes to draft and consult on the Northern Ireland plastic pollution plan in early 2022.

Views can be submitted in response to the call for evidence by 5:00p.m on October 1, 2021.

The department is keen to hear about potential solutions to the problem – this could be new technology, ideas for behaviour change, ways to move resources up the waste hierarchy or new innovations that are in development.