Repak’s Vision for a Fairer Retail Playing Field


 

Seámus Clancy, CEO, Repak

 

In anticipation of the excesses of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and of course the Christmas season, Repak commissioned a report by Dr. Pat McCloughan, Managing Director of PMCA Economic Consulting, on the volume of online consumer sales and the impact this has on additional packaging in Ireland.

Dr. McCloughan and I worked alongside Repak’s Membership Manager, Colm Munnelly and Brian Walsh, Packaging Technology Executive, on this report which, for the first time in Ireland or any other country, shows an independent estimation of the additional packaging arising in the country from online purchases.

Our report shows that the amount of packaging waste material generated in Ireland from online shopping outside the state is growing by 28% per annum and is now over 7,500 tonnes of waste per year. To put it in context, that level of waste is the equivalent of all waste generated by a town of 16,000 – similar to the size of Maynooth.

Online retailers from outside the state, such as Amazon, eBay and many others, are using a loop hole in the law to avoid not spending a penny towards the cost of recycling the packaging they deliver to Irish households.

We simply want the Minister to a mend the legislation. Technology has disrupted the industry and the responsibility for contributing to the management of packaging waste should now apply to overseas operators. Shopping patterns have changed so there is a need to update the legislation. I urge online retailers like Amazon to practise good corporate social responsibility and make a contribution towards the packaging waste they generate in Ireland. The playing field must be fairer.

In 2016, 27 million items of consumer goods were imported into Ireland through online purchases from abroad. Most of the imported packaging is cardboard, making up 77% of the total weight of packaging materials. The second largest packaging material in tonnes was low-density polyethylene (13.3%), followed by paper (4.8%) and glass (3.6%).

Irish companies with a turnover in excess of €1m and who place 10 tonnes or more of packaging on the Irish market are responsible for looking after the recycling of their packaging and through Repak fulfil that responsibility. This situation is giving major online retailers an unfair advantage over Irish companies that are contributing towards the cost of recycling. It is costing Repak members approximately €500,000 a year to recycle and recover this packaging, for which international retailers do not pay a penny.

Since 1997, Irish businesses have invested over €400 million through Repak in supporting packaging recycling in Ireland, and with our members, Repak has helped divert over 10 million tonnes of packaging waste from landfill.

At Repak, we believe it requires intervention from the Government. We call on the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Environment, and the Environmental Protection Agency to examine what the appropriate ‘polluter pays’ mechanism is to ensure there is fairness in the retail sector.

You can read our full report here.

View a full list of our members here.