A newly-announced review of Ireland's use of single use plastics, such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds, has been labelled "a do nothing exercise from a do nothing government on the environment" in the Dáil.
Green Party TDs were heavily critical of the Government decision to abstain on a vote on their motion on the prevention of single use plastic pending the outcome of the review.
Newly-appointed Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton acknowledged Ireland's plastic usage is 80% above the European Union average, adding that "we have a chronic reliance on plastics and we need to sort that out".
Green Party TD Catherine Martin said "it is beyond frustrating" that her party has had to bring the Waste Reduction Bill before the Dáil again.
She claimed the Government has "blocked and obstructed" the bill and said: "Former minister Naughten consistently refused to issue a money order for the Waste Reduction Bill because this Government does not want to act on climate change".
She accused Minister Bruton of taking "a cynical step of kicking the can down the road with a national review".
"You don't want to take action on the health of our seas or our environment. You seem to have to be dragged kicking and screaming at a snail's pace into the very smallest, tiniest amount of climate action you can possibly get away with as slowly and reluctantly as possible."
Deputy Martin also questioned how Taoiseach Leo Varadkar allows himself to be pictured using a reusable coffee cup while his Government blocks the Waste Reduction Bill.
She claimed that "the level of shallow double speak and inconsistencies beggars belief".
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan was particularly critical of Fine Gael's record on environmental issues.
He also pointed out that Fine Gael ministers have been pictured with glass bottles and reusable cups but then "they give a completely wrong environmental message by saying it's nothing to do with us".
Mr Ryan said: "We need to be radical in taking the plastic out of use because it is doing such harm to the environment and it is using up resources. It is polluting our air as well as our seas".
He cited the examples of the smoking ban and plastic bag levy as examples where Ireland has made progressive steps forward.
Mr Ryan said he thought that today was going to be one of those days but "Government are doing another review - a do nothing exercise from a do nothing government on the environment".
Mr Bruton said he believes that an effective policy is needed to tackle plastics and the use of plastics in Ireland.
He said: "Our usage of plastics at 58 grams per capita is 80% above the EU average. We have a chronic reliance on plastics and we need to sort that out".
The minister welcomed the decision of the EU to ban ten items of single use plastic that are the sources of chronic pollution of our oceans.
He said: "I am in no way denigrating the role of the Oireachtas or casting aspersions on the efforts of others. I look forward to being able to implement a very strong range of initiatives to ensure that we do meet those responsibilities that we are signing up to".
Mr Bruton said that for Government to come up with proposals to tackle the issue, it has to carry out a "fair and objective evaluation" and make sure "we are picking the most effective policy instruments to deliver on our ambitions".
He said the Government will consider initiatives such as better labelling to help people make decisions about recycling in their homes and better packaging design so materials are not mixed, which makes them more difficult to recycle.
Mr Brtuon said that a deposit return scheme and a levy on disposal cups are measures that will be looked at.
He said he is determined to proceed with his review "speedily" and come back as quickly as possible with the outcome of the evaluation.
Mr Bruton concluded: "I will not unnecessarily delay ... I am determined to make an impact in this area."
Fianna Fáil's Timmy Dooley warned that at the current rate of usage, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
"This problem is transnational and so are the solutions but Ireland can and should be at the forefront of ending this scourge."
Sinn Féin's Brian Stanley said Mr Bruton is the fourth minister he has dealt with on this issue in the last eight years and "the game is up in terms of plastic ... plastic was the great material of the 20th century and it is now proving to be the scourge of the 21st".