The decision was reached following a public consultation process and report focussing on litter from automated teller machine (ATM) receipts, chewing gum and fast food packaging.

“While positive progress has been made on litter management and in changing people’s attitudes to litter, there is still scope for improvement,” Mr Roche stated. “Our ultimate objective is to tackle the litter problem and associated negative environmental impacts. To this end, I am anxious to see a considerable reduction in the incidence of these items as nuisance litter as quickly as possible.”

The Department for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will now commence negotiations with each relevant sector to help minimise their impact on the country’s litter problem.

Mr Roche said this would give the producers of the items that are ending up as litter an opportunity to propose positive measures to prevent their products from becoming a litter nuisance.

In particular, the Minister said he was committed to phasing out the use of polystyrene in fast food packaging and replacing it with biodegradable materials as part of his agreement with the fast food sector.

“While citizens have a civic responsibility not to cause litter, the producers of problematic litter items also have a responsibility and need to be more proactive in minimising the litter pollution caused by the items they produce,” he added. “It is only through intensive anti-litter activities and concerted co-ordinated action that we will be able to successfully address the litter problem in Ireland.”

The report had recommended applying a mandatory levy on chewing gum with the proceeds used to tackle litter problems caused by the product, but Mr Roche has confirmed that the chewing gum industry will instead be given a chance to come up with a comprehensive action plan to fight the problem in their own way.

“However, if the sector fails to propose meaningful measures encompassing an appropriate level of funding to address the problems caused within a short timeframe, the application of a mandatory levy on chewing gum will be back on the agenda,” the Minister warned. “The cleaning up of chewing gum is both problematical and expensive, not helped by the adhesive nature of the product, and is something that must be addressed.”

Overall costs incurred by local authorities in Ireland through litter management and street cleaning reached an estimated €70 million in 2003, of which only €2.74 million was actually offset by fines, with councils having to provide remaining funding.

“Progressive and concerted action is needed to reduce the amount of litter on our streets,” Mr Roche concluded, “as well as the associated costs incurred by local authorities in dealing with it.”

By Jane Kettle

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