The new deposit return scheme makes “absolute sense” and is already working, the Green Party leader has told Newstalk Breakfast.
From next February, people buying certain bottles and cans will be charged a small deposit, which they can get back by returning them to shops taking part in the scheme.
Despite this, the plan has come in for some criticism in recent days with some people claiming it will see an increase in unnecessary journeys with people travelling to shops to pick up their deposits.
Others have pointed out that many of the bottles and cans were already being recycled through people’s green bins at home.
Speaking to Newstalk from COP28 in Dubai this morning, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the plan is “already working” – with some shops rolling out the return machines ahead of time.
“When you're going to do the shopping, you can do [the returns] at the same time,” he said. “It doesn't increase emissions that way.”
“But critically, what it does, people can put plastic and should it into their green bin, but these bottles, these pet bottles, it's particularly effective when we put them - just those and aluminium cans - into this return scheme.
“You get a really high-quality flow of plastic that you can then recycle very effectively and very competitively.
“So, it makes absolute sense and I'm thrilled we're going to bring it in.”
Minister Ryan said the agreement on a new $700m (€650m) Loss and Damage fund at the outset of COP28 was “significant”.
He warned, however, that this year’s ‘global stock take’ under the Paris Climate Agreement shows that we are “not on track”.
“It shows that the impacts of climate change and the evidence of it is actually far more dramatic than we would have expected five years ago, or even a year ago,” he said.
“That the temperature rises this year, the increased extreme weather events which we've seen at home as well as pretty much everywhere else in the world, really, are motivation if motivation were needed that we have to act far faster.”
He admitted that Ireland is “not where we need to be” when it comes to reducing emissions – but insisted we are “seen as really progressive” in some areas.
He also claimed there are “signs our ship is starting to turn” when it comes to emissions.
“In the first half of this year, we've seen emissions in electricity, so that's carbon emissions coming from our use of power generation is down some 15%,” he said. “That's not insignificant.
“Similarly, in agriculture … in the last two years, our use of nitrogen fertilisers - so that's the kind of oil-based fertilisers which we use to promote grass growth - has dropped 30% and again that's very significant.
“The benefit of that is it's saving farmers money as well as being better for the environment.
“So, there are a number of signs that we can - and I could list loads of them - but that we are starting to make the turn.”
He said the carbon tax, while “originally unpopular”, is also working as it provides a revenue stream that protects people on low incomes and provides certainty to the retrofitting industry.