Waste Management (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2001 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill is before the House because the Government wants to force through a waste management strategy based on incineration. It is in this position because in its four years in office it neglected the waste issue and failed to provide the necessary leadership to deal with it. When it came into office, it knew that there was a serious waste problem. Not until my colleague, Deputy Howlin, introduced the Waste Management Act, 1996, did the country face up legislatively to this problem. We are unique in Europe in landfilling over 90% of non-agricultural waste. It is now a crisis. The number of landfills is reducing. EU directives and legislation limit the material that can go into landfill. As the Minister stated, we are being taken to the European Court and may be fined, which the taxpayers will daily pay, because of non-compliance with EU waste legislation. Every county has a difficulty over waste management.

In response to the crisis, the Government pursues a two track approach – a public policy and a private plan. The public policy is contained in Changing Our Ways, published in 1998, and hauled out in various statements issued by the Minister and speeches made by him in which he subscribes to what the Minister of State calls the international accepted hierarchy of waste. We will, in theory, minimise waste and reuse, recycle, recover and do all the things dictated by good environmental practice. There is no disagreement about this. The problem is, however, that the Government does not believe in doing that. While it mouths a public policy position which subscribes to the waste hierarchy idea, in practice it pursues a private plan based on the acceptance at official level that the way to deal with waste is to incinerate it.

While various statements are being made publicly by Ministers about the waste hierarchy, recycling, Changing Our Ways etc, there is a cold view taken at official level, both centrally and at local government level, that all this old guff about recycling is great for ministerial press releases but the way to deal with the waste problem is to gather it all up and put it in an incinerator. That is the reason the regional strategy is being pursued and the Minister ordered that local authorities should combine in regional groupings to adopt regional waste management plans. It was not that he had any great commitment to the idea of regional policy but these waste regions were constructed on the premise that there would be an incinerator in each. That particular plan has now come unstuck because some local authorities will not roll over and do the Minister's bidding. The reason we have this Bill before us is because the Minister, faced with that situation, wants to force the issue. He wants to force local authorities to pursue a pre-ordained plan based on incinerating waste.

Much has been said about the concerns of many about the health and environmental implications of incineration. Those concerns cannot and should not be dismissed in the light and facetious way that they are being dismissed by Government and official sources. People are tired and weary of official reassurances. They were reassured before about the quality of blood, food and a whole range of matters. Now they are getting an official assurance in relation to the so-called safety of incineration. It is quite understandable that people, particularly in areas where it is proposed to locate incinerators, are concerned about the health and environmental implications of incineration. They have a right to voice those concerns and structures established for local governance should be capable of dealing with them. They should not be set aside as they are in this Bill.

Apart from the health and environmental concerns there is also the question as to whether this is the right strategy to pursue in relation to our waste management. If we give priority, as the Government does, to developing an end-of-pipe solution to waste based on incineration, we effectively neglect the necessary investment in infrastructure needed to underpin recycling and recovery.

The Labour Party is the only political party to have produced an alternative to the Government strategy on waste. Earlier this year we published a comprehensive document, outlining and costing an alternative strategy. We pointed out that it is possible and desirable to develop a strategy based on recycling. We took the target, contained in the Changing Our Ways document, of 35% for the national recycling of municipal waste and the targets set out in the various regional and local waste management plans drawn up mainly by the consultancy firm M. C. O'Sullivan and accepted them. We said if we could achieve those targets for recycling, recovery and reuse, that would make a huge impact on reducing the scale of the waste problem to be addressed here. In order to meet those targets we have to do more than issue ministerial press releases about recycling. We have to invest in a recycling infrastructure.

As Deputy Deasy and other Deputies said, it is all very well to talk about recycling but it must be physically done somewhere. We can talk about recycling paper but the recycling and reprocessing activity must actually be physically performed. To do that we have to invest in recycling infrastructure. What passes for recycling here is pilot schemes, experimental projects and the odd bottle bank in the corner of a supermarket car park. That just scratches the surface. The amount of waste collected for recycling at those centres is just a tiny fraction of the total amount available for collection. We have to develop the infrastructure, the separated collection system and markets for recycled products. We are aware that there is a problem with markets for recycled products.

Instead of legislation designed to facilitate a fast-track approach to incineration what we need is an alternative strategy where we take and accept the targets set down in official documents and policy statements, invest in the infrastructure to provide recycling facilities and provide the collection systems designed to facilitate recycling. The various wheelie bins, etc., being provided in our major urban centres are not designed for recycling. If they were, they would provide for separated collection. They provide for a system of collection where everything goes into the wheelie bin, gets tipped into a lorry and is eventually taken away and burned. That is the system being developed and invested in. We need a different approach.

The Labour Party's opposition to this Bill is based on two matters. It is based, first, on its undemocratic nature, the effective standing down of local democracy and the normal planning process for waste facilities. Second, it is based on our belief that the strategy being pursued by the Government, which is essentially based on incineration, is flawed. It is flawed environmentally and economically. We should pursue an alternative strategy based on recycling for which the Labour Party has already set out a blueprint in its waste management document published earlier this year.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the Waste Management (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2001. This is an important Bill dealing with what is a serious challenge for all of us. That challenge is the huge level of waste being generated as a result of our unprecedented levels of economic growth and the increasing affluence of our society. Central and local government have been slow to tackle this challenge in sharp contrast to the action taken by many of our EU colleagues. While it is true that a small minority of citizens have been demanding action and leading the call for policies on waste management and recycling, it must be said that most, until recently, were not aware of the serious problems facing us. There are probably still some who believe we can continue to put rubbish out for collection to be disposed of in landfill sites at no cost. That is no longer the case. If people believe this we will have to embark on a major public awareness and information programme to explain the facts.

This Bill aims to provide for the making and adoption of waste management plans by city and county managers. It seeks to make this matter an Executive function. It also aims to provide for an introduction of an environmental levy on plastic shopping bags, a levy on the landfill of waste and the establishment of an environment fund.

Unfortunately, local authorities have failed on the issue of waste management. This Bill is necessary to ensure that the current, long-running waste management process is finalised and that delays in bringing forward a regional approach and putting a waste management infrastructure in place are brought to an end. Such a waste management infrastructure includes recycling, thermal treatment and landfill disposal. The adoption of waste management plans at a regional level is now urgent. We can no longer avoid the issue, 90% of our waste is now landfilled. Such a high figure is unique to Ireland among EU countries. New landfill sites are, for various reasons, unavailable while existing sites are coming to the end of their natural lives. EU targets can no longer be set aside. A real problem demands real and practical solutions. We are living in cloud cuckoo land if we think otherwise.

As a member of a local authority I am generally not happy about giving more powers to city and county managers. Unfortunately, that is the only option available to the Minister at this time. I am glad he is giving these powers to the managers who are, after all, part of the local government structure. Managers are still obliged to at least report to councillors and listen to their advice. I am happy the Minister did not take the alternative course of action open to him and establish a national waste management authority, as was mooted at one time. It would have been a quango, independent of local government and completely undemocratic and unaccountable.

The Minister of State outlined earlier in this debate that the plans of some local authorities were being held up by a small number of neighbouring authorities acting undemocratically. I note his views. It is unacceptable that one local authority can hold up the adoption of a regional waste management plan when all other authorities in that area have agreed it. This Bill is an attempt to deal with that unfortunate matter.

The overall Government policy on waste management is set out in the Changing Our Ways policy document of 1998. It listed five forms of action: prevention, minimisation, re-use and re-cycling, energy recovery and safe disposal. I stress that the incinerator or thermal treatment is only one part of the strategy. This is a very controversial matter and a major political issue in many communities. Health concerns are the primary focus of this debate and rightly so. They must be thoroughly addressed. Nevertheless, we need a rational and informed debate. We must deal with the rumours and myths which surround the issue.

All sorts of views have been advanced regarding thermal treatment. It is said that proposals for waste management planning in Ireland amount to nothing more than incineration but that is simply not the case. As I mentioned earlier, several other options outlined in Changing Our Ways are being pursued simultaneously. It is said that incineration is being abandoned in Europe, that is not true. It is not being abandoned by the European Commission as various directives demonstrate. The European Commission is not anti-incineration. It is said that incineration is being banned in some European countries, once again that is not true. It is not true of Germany, Denmark or Austria, where thermal treatment is part of waste management strategies. It is said that a proposal for an incinerator in Douglas, Isle of Man, is being delayed indefinitely because of health concerns. The facts do not support that. There are various policy documents issued by the governing authorities in the Isle of Man which demonstrate that.

It is said that waste incineration is the primary cause of dioxins, yet there are many other sources of dioxins to which we are exposed. Dioxin levels in the milk of Danish cows is said to be 12 times higher than that in Ireland. Information compiled by the Department of the Environment and Local Government refutes that. It is said that countries which use incineration for municipal waste have higher incidences of cancer than those that do not. This is a very simplistic argument which fails to take into account that the incidence of cancer is determined by a wide range of factors and not just dioxins. It is said that zero waste policies in places such as Canberra, Australia, show that waste management can be achieved without either incineration or landfill. This is not true.

The Government has a credible alternative to incineration in their complete package. Incineration is just one aspect of the waste management strategy. Do we have a credible and practical alternative to incineration as part of our waste management strategy? I do not believe so. The argument has been put forward that incineration will simply take over the strategy and all other elements will be cast aside. I accept the Minister of State's reassurances that that will not be the case. Our recycling targets will have to be attained. They cannot be set aside even when incinerators are up and running.

The levy on plastic shopping bags will not be popular. Shoppers can be stressed at the checkout and for convenience and to avoid hassle they tend to use more and more plastic bags into which to pack their shopping. Packing their shopping can be frustrating at the end of a busy day in a supermarket. It will take a significant change of attitude to break that habit. This levy will help to make people think about what they are doing when they take more plastic bags. Unfortunately, such a levy is inevitable if we are to deal with the big problem of plastic bags. If one drives down a boreen in any part of Ireland, one will see plastic bags strewn along the ditch, caught in briars. They can be seen on beaches, in parks and everywhere else, which is intolerable. I am glad the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is finally fulfilling his commitment to introduce a levy in the interest of the common good. There should be clarification in relation to different types of plastic bags. Shoppers in supermarkets may have to use 20 small plastic bags, whereas those shopping in clothes shops may arrive home with one big plastic bag. Is the levy the same for all plastic bags, regardless of size, quality and strength? A case can be made for different rates to meet different circumstances.

Packaging is a problem, although I suggest that consumers do not have a choice in this regard. Shoppers buy what they have to buy, regardless of the amount of packaging with which it comes. We are told we should try to buy products that have as little packaging as possible, but that is not practical for stressed shoppers with a limited budget. The problem should be addressed at source by ensuring industrial and manufacturing organisations do not present their products with as much packaging. Imaginative efforts in this regard at national and EU level would go a long way towards tackling this serious problem.

Local authorities in the greater Dublin area have done well to adopt a waste management plan with an overall objective of bringing about radical changes. Waste growth levels will be reduced, recycling will be increased, there will be more waste recovery and landfill will be minimised. Waste minimisation will be encouraged in co-operation with individuals, resident associations, communities and the private sector. Projects will include communal composting projects, home composting, green schools initiatives, public information and promotion campaigns and waste reduction targets. The Dublin waste management plan has as an objective the achievement of waste recycling and recovery rates by introducing home addressed collection of recyclables using green wheelie bins where possible, providing communal recycling facilities for multi-occupancy dwellings, four civic amenity sites, a bring bank for every 4,000 people, and separate collection for harmful household waste.

Another overall objective of the plan is to introduce a wheelie bin refuse collection service, involving information programmes, distribution bins and the provision of a collection service. Biological waste will be recycled in two newly constructed biological treatment facilities. Thermal treatment of waste to enable energy recovery is another goal of this comprehensive programme. I disagree with Deputy Gilmore's comments as three wheelie bins will be delivered to every household in the Dublin Corporation area. Many households already have bins for both residual waste and dry recyclables and the third bin will be used for organic waste. Household rubbish is now being segregated, as has been the case in Germany for many years, a major achievement that is better late than never.

I welcome the Bill's provisions in relation to litter, including the increase in on-the-spot fines to £100. It is generally recognised that there is a serious litter problem in the Dublin Corporation area and the suburbs of the city. The Lord Mayor of Dublin launched a major initiative in September 2000 to deal with it. Certain developments have exacerbated the litter problem, such as the advent of late night and Sunday shopping in the city centre and suburban villages. Household junk is indiscriminately dumped in laneways and other black spots. Litter bins are inadequately serviced at weekends and during and after major events. Many businesses do not take responsibility for cleaning the footpaths outside their premises.

The city manager has come forward with a number of new proposals, including the reorganisation of street cleaning and significant investment in a new plant and equipment. There will be seven day cleaning of suburban villages and new wheelie bins will continue to be rolled out. A new junk collection service will be introduced, as will a system to tackle litter black spots such as laneways. A new level of general servicing will be complemented by the provision of 2,000 new litter bins and an increase in the number of litter wardens from 20 to 32. The enforcement role of litter wardens will be significantly enhanced and arrangements are under way to recruit the additional staff. It is a major programme and public awareness will be important if it is to be successful. Progress is being made and I wish the Bill a speedy passage.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Perry and Belton.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Dublin will face a crisis of enormous proportions in the next 12 months, as the available landfill capacity is decreasing. Fingal County Council has increased its tonnage charge from £55 to £80 per tonne and requested commercial waste contractors to cut input by 50%. Notwithstanding these measures, there is an enormous crisis ahead. The process of establishing and developing a new landfill to permanently replace the existing facility in Balleally cannot happen in time to prevent an emergency. Domestic refuse in Dublin may go uncollected this time next year.

This Bill seeks to force local authorities to adopt waste management plans, yet the Minister has failed to support the authorities which have adopted plans and are trying to ensure their delivery and implementation. The Government must ensure waste disposal facilities are in place to meet the commercial and domestic needs of the State. Local authorities must not be frustrated in the work of sourcing, surveying and developing waste facilities. The Minister ought to introduce legislation which will allow local authorities to fast track the identification of necessary facilities and ensure their development without undue delay.

Householders along with the commercial sector quite rightly expect that their homes or businesses should be serviced adequately with water, power, drainage and refuse collection and disposal. Small interest groups must not be allowed to abuse the best interests of the community in general. However, the Minister does not have any respect for democracy. He always opts for the spoiled child solution, to take the ball and run home rather than support democratically elected public representatives. Transferring power to the city or county manager is not the answer and it will be the cause of rancour and dissatisfaction within the authority and between it and the electorate.

The Minister should approach the problem through the use of improved methods of operation and new technology together with encouraging the concept of community compensation packages that deliver a consensus on the way forward and reduce the level and intensity of objection. He is correct to take a percentage of the money generated from landfills and to use it to create an environmental fund. The more expensive the landfill option, the more economic reuse and recycling becomes. The State must be prepared to subsidise the market to allow for the development of a secure, viable recycling industry. Until that stability is created in the marketplace it will become very difficult to maximise reuse and recycling opportunities.

The plastic bag levy is packaging with no content. If the Minister were serious he would have introduced a waste generator's tax which would have a real effect in reducing unnecessary refuse, and an environment audit which would examine each business and take account of all unnecessary packaging, promotional junk and so on so that the refuse created would be scarcer and a local tax imposed. That would apply to manufactures and retailers – two hits on the one generator of waste, which should appeal to the Minister for Finance.

If the Government is serious about the reduction of waste then it needs to do more than count empty plastic bags. It must capture the hearts and minds of citizens. We must change how society operates and sees itself. It is important waste management is recognised as a problem for the entire community and not only as an issue for those who reside or farm near a landfill site. The concept of removing plastic bags from the waste stream is a matter of litter management rather than landfill use.

We are only too well aware in north Dublin about the time it takes for a bag to break down but ordinary people only see an old bag blowing around as a nuisance and they rightly wonder if it was ever worth it. We know only too well that plastic bags are not worth it nor will they ever be considering the long-term damage which they cause. Plastic bags are for quick use but cause long-term damage with very little gain. We must view all waste in the same way. What did it ever contribute? If we want meaningful reduction, we should attack the source in the first instance.

Deputy Haughey mentioned wheelie bins. I am delighted Dublin Corporation has introduced free wheelie bins and the scheme should work. However, one must be conscious of the problem for those living in terraces. Residents have a problem using the bins in some areas because they cannot take them through the house and they wonder whether they should leave them outside. This issue must be examined but I welcome the separation process which should lead to less landfill waste.

The committal to landfill of masonry and waste building materials is another widespread problem in Dublin. My family is engaged in the building supplies industry with the retail of gravel being the core element of the business. This material should be collected. The Minister should call all the interested parties together such as those who sell concrete and aggregates and put in place a system whereby such material can be brought to a site where it can be crushed and resold as gravel. If this content were taken out of landfill it would be a great service.

I thank Deputy Cosgrave for sharing time. Modern society generates an increasing volume of domestic and industrial waste materials. The absence of suitable facilities for recycling, recovery, treatment and disposal of waste discourages the establishment of employment creating enterprises and reduces the quality of life of its citizens. The only method of dealing with solid waste material following recycling, recovery and treatment is disposal to landfill. There is an urgent need for the implementation of an integrated solid waste collection, treatment and disposal strategy. Very few landfills have a greater lifespan than ten or 12 years. The most critical problems regarding the disposal of solid waste are in Sligo, Galway, Enniskillen and Carlow-Kilkenny.

As regards tackling the serious problem of litter pollution, I share the Minister's commitment to reducing the use of plastic bags in shops. Business people have taken part in key initiatives to reduce litter in their local communities and are very supportive of Repak. Questions should be asked about Repak's role. Businesses contribute significant sums towards waste management and recycling on an annual basis.

Any measures aimed at addressing the litter problem associated with plastic bags must be clear and unambiguous, operate on the polluter pays principle, which is not the case, be enforceable and effective, proportionate and not penalise certain categories of consumer or retailer, and be transparent and capable of review. Business people have a number of serious misgivings about the proposals in the Bill and believe they will be unworkable and counterproductive. There is also an additional concern that the measures constitute an element of double taxation.

The legislation, while well intended, is deficient in a number of important respects. It is vague and imprecise and key issues require clarification before enactment. Its proposals do not contain sufficient detail to allow business people to assess their impact and they do not address a number of key issues which are delegated to the Minister.

To what types of plastic bags will the levy apply? Will it apply to the main shopping bag or will it include smaller plastic bags? When does the Minister propose to review the application of the levy? Will that take place after 12 or 24 months? How will retailers collect the levy? Will it be added to the grocery bill as a separate item? How will retailers account for and return the collected levy? What paperwork and administrative procedures will be applied and how will they operate? What class or classes of supermarkets, service stations or other outlets will be defined in the regulations to be made by the Minister? Will large retailers be able to absorb the cost of the levy for consumers directly or in conjunction with a loyalty card scheme?

There is a significant difference between large and small businesses. Who will collect the levy from retailers, how often and what powers of collection and enforcement shall apply? What will happen when a consumer refuses to pay the levy? What exemptions will apply in regard to the levy and in what circumstances will refunds be paid? Will there be an exemption for specific classes of retailers and, if so, on what basis will any exemption be granted? What other types of articles does the Minister envisage will be brought within the scope of section 8(12)? Will retailers and consumers be subjected to the imposition of a levy for a range of other goods, products or services? What levy review process will be put in place and will the representatives of manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers be part of it? I am disappointed those people have not been consulted.

The proposals for landfill tax also involve an element of double taxation for retailers. Retailers currently subscribe millions of pounds to Repak each year and this money is contributed towards recycling projects. What has it done with that money? We need compactors in every area. That is where Repak's money should be invested. It would be grossly unfair for retailers to be obliged to contribute to a landfill levy and contribute to Repak at the same time.

Clarity on these issues is required before this part of the Bill can be enacted. The Minister should circulate the draft regulations he proposes to make when the Bill is enacted so that a meaningful debate can take place on the impact of this radical new legislation. The Minister is introducing this by the back door and it will not work because there are too many unanswered ques tions. In the absence of draft regulations, any debate on the issue will take place in a vacuum. If further taxation is not imposed on business people and consumers, who can least afford to pay it, in a fair and equitable manner, it will be hard to implement. There should be greater transparency in this process and the key stakeholders should be consulted on the application and collection of the levy.

I know business people who pay £250 a week to have skips removed from their car parks and they also pay Repak. Another tax will now be imposed on plastic bags. I know the concept is good but we must encourage people to use other forms of carrier bags if we want to take plastic bags out of the system. Will the Minister give a grant to business people who decide to use degradable shopping bags instead of plastic bags? I would prefer that because they are more expensive to buy. That would be one method of solving this problem.

I thank my colleagues for sharing time with me. This Bill is like a dog that does not bark. The tail is wagging, but nothing is happening. The Minister has gone to the well but there is no water. He is only tampering with this issue, which is the most serious one facing this country.

Deputy Perry mentioned landfill sites. People will not accept them in their areas. That is the fault of the local authorities which did not adhere to the proper regulations for landfill sites. Incineration was put forward as an alternative. The Government should set up an independent body that would give an independent view on the health risks associated with incineration. Some months ago a public meeting was held in Longford which was attended by 500 or 600 people. People are genuinely afraid of incineration.

It is outrageous to impose a levy on plastic bags. I grew up in a small country shop where everyone brought their own shopping bags. Anyone who came without them apologised profusely for forgetting them. They went home with their shopping on bicycles as there were not any big cars in those days. People did that voluntarily. However, this Government wants to introduce a divisive measure. It knows it must get the support of the people, particularly after last week.

I hope everyone brings their own shopping bags and then we will not need plastic bags.

It should encourage people to do that. People will respond, but not to charges.

There is a great need for education in schools, etc. I had the pleasant duty last week of being present in Tashinny school in County Longford which was awarded a green flag. It was obvious that all the children were motivated about recycling. Such initiatives should be supported. People involved in the recycling business want to be in it, but they cannot make money. If the Government is serious about tackling this problem it should introduce incentives such as grants for people in the recycling business. We all agree that recycling is the answer, but when funding and incentives are not provided people will not get involved in the business. There is nothing positive in this Bill. It is a divisive measure which will not solve the problem.

The Minister of State said that section 4 "provides that the making of a waste management plan will become an Executive function. Where a local authority manager considers that a waste management plan is invalid because the purported decision of the relevant authority was subject to qualification, the manager will adopt the said plan". Why does he not shut down county councils? What is the purpose of having a ballot box? Why should we elect members? Why should we go to the trouble of having local authorities? It should all be given to the manager. This statement was made by the Fianna Fáil Party which purports to represent the small person and whose history dictates that the people must have their say at the ballot box. Yet in one fell swoop the county manager will be the boss and we can scrap the councillors and bury the ballot box. That is Fianna Fáil's answer to it.

Absolutely not.

It will get its answer this weekend.

As the Minister of State said, most local authorities have adopted plans as required under the Waste Management Act, 1996, to address the mounting waste problem. Most people would consider the Minister of State's figures, which show a growth in waste of 3% to 4% per annum, as not only conservative but a fraction of the real growth in this area. Unfortunately, this area of growth is doing considerable damage and it will be expensive to deal with it. The 1996 Act went a considerable way towards dealing with this problem. I remember many people were critical of it and said that it went too far in some respects.

It must be acknowledged that many local authorities have faced up to their responsibilities. It is less than fair to be overly critical of those who have not because they were faced with difficulties which they might not have been able to address in the short term. As the Minister of State said, it is an issue we cannot wait to resolve and which requires this legislation to move it a step further. There are many reasons the few local authorities that have not implemented the 1996 legislation have been unable to do so. Perhaps some of them are waiting for a magic wand solution or for a way to get off the hook. Although they will rail against it, many of them will welcome the provision that gets them off the hook.

A small minority of members of most councils, as is the case in the Dáil, pretend there is an easy and aesthetically pleasing way to address the problem. Most of them know there is not, but there are constituencies receptive to the view and the posturing in this regard that are ready to believe the fairy tale that we can continue to ignore this problem and that it will magically go away. That will not and cannot happen. The problem has disimproved dramatically. The nation is producing mountains of waste, about 90% of which currently goes into landfill. That is not sustainable in the short to medium term. Many landfills are reaching the end of their useful lives. Many of the small landfills could not be and were not adequately policed over many years. I have no doubt that it was possible to dump dangerous and perhaps toxic substances in them. There was a danger to water courses in some areas and, in some cases, a danger to public water supplies. The need to address that issue is equally as important as the need to address the growing waste mountain.

The country needs efficient and cost-effective waste services and infrastructure. We have been slow to develop comprehensive and modern strategies. Strategic planning is fundamental to good waste management and that was recognised in the 1996 Act. There were sufficient provisions in that legislation had been taken seriously and acted upon quickly to make the current legislation unnecessary but that did not happen because people did not have the capacity or feel the urgency to face up to reality.

We have a limited recycling infrastructure. Effectively we do not have any means of energy recovery from waste and no biological treatment capacity to any extent. We have to face up to the fact that the provision of a good waste recycling infrastructure will be enormously costly. We have moved along in the belief that, somehow or other, recycling can be a self-financing operation but that is impossible. If we are to have a recycling infrastructure it will have to be paid for and the sad reality is that a good deal of the cost in the short to medium term will have to be picked up by the State. I welcome the provision regarding the environmental fund arising from the levies. That fund can grow dramatically and fund the type of recycling we need.

Individuals and groups in various parts of the country engaged in waste recycling to a greater or lesser extent sought the support of local authorities and central Government and have been disappointed by the lack of response to their proposals. Some very good proposals were put forward. There was one in my own county and the people involved battled for a long time with little support. Those of us who realised that what they were doing would ultimately be very useful were embarrassed at the failure of the authorities at local and national level to give the type of support required to their initiative. Separating various kinds of recyclable materials from materials which are no longer of use is difficult and tedious work, and it is by no means glamorous. We need to put in place these kind of facilities in many more locations and we have to face up to the fact that they will need substantial grant aid.

A number of speakers complained bitterly about the proposed levy on plastic shopping bags which could increase, under the Bill, to a maximum of 15p per bag. Anybody who sees waste in the countryside, in particular, and to a certain extent in the towns, will realise that plastic bags are among the greatest offenders in terms of visible rubbish. Equally as damaging is the fact that if and when they are consigned to waste management facilities, or to landfill sites in particular, they are not readily biodegradable and have a very long life. Neither are they environmentally friendly in terms of dioxin emissions if they should be submitted for thermal treatment, which is one of the other options.

The Minister is right to introduce such a measure at this time. It will bring home to every individual that they have a responsibility to play their part in reducing the enormous waste mountain which is creating such difficulty. Nothing will bring home that message to people more than the fact that using plastic bags will cost them a substantial percentage of the cost of their shopping. People will learn quickly to find other means of transporting goods. That is one of the measures that will have a dramatic and fairly quick effect.

There is also a proposed landfill levy of £15 per tonne. That may appear modest but I understand in terms of cost per load it is quite a large amount. It will have the effect of making landfill less attractive. I hope it will not have the short-term effect of tempting even more people to resort to dumping material in public places, beauty spots or inaccessible areas where they think they cannot be seen. That is an area in which we need to take much stronger action. The £100 on the spot fine for dumping is derisory if it is taken in the context of dumping the contents of the boot of a car or a trailer of plastic bags and other materials in a particular beauty spot, on a piece of bog land or wherever people tend to dump these items. Perhaps a £100 fine is more in order if somebody threw a small piece of paper on a street, but that does not adequately address the enormity of the difficulty we are facing. There might be justification for a modest fine for a minor littering offence but I would support a much larger fine in the case of dumping bags of rubbish in the types of places to which I have referred. As a previous speaker said, the people who are doing this are not poor or those we would consider to be less informed about this issue. It is pillars of society who are dumping their rubbish in various places and that problem has to be addressed in the short term.

One of the measures I would like to see introduced to deal with this problem is compulsory community service for people caught either littering or dumping. I might draw a slight distinction in that regard, but it is something that should be taken account of because that would put a certain emphasis on the problem.

We must dramatically increase awareness of this problem and use many more "carrot" type measures. We must also use the stick much more than we have in the past. Extensive advertising campaigns have been run which appear to have had virtually no positive effect. Perhaps I am judging them a little harshly, and I look forward to being proven wrong with some of the future campaigns. It is difficult to believe that we need to mount major advertising campaigns, with various fines and so on, to force people to face up to the fact that they are doing such damage. That is particularly difficult to understand in a country which is hugely dependent on tourism and needs a clean environment to enjoy a high quality of life. Newsprint, of which there is a large amount, is a difficult product with which to deal. It should be possible to devise a system to ensure that used newspapers are transported. It has been suggested that this could be done by the vehicles which deliver them in the first instance. This is a specialist service which could easily collect wrapped bundles of old newspapers when making deliveries. It might be possible to introduce a pilot scheme in this regard which would adopt more of the carrot approach and less of the stick.

The option of a national waste management authority was examined. This would be a less democratic option than that provided for under the 1996 Act and envisaged under the powers provided for county managers in this Bill. However, the problem is so serious that we may have to examine the possibility of establishing such an authority with significant powers to deal with the problems which beset us at present.

We also need to face up to the fact that in areas where people object to the opening of landfill sites, local authorities have traditionally managed such sites very poorly. For many years there was a problem with a lack of resources. Those who served on local authorities tried to ensure that whatever money was available was put to the best use, usually trying to deal with the problems of potholes. However, there is no doubt that local authorities starved the area of waste management of resources. The dumps with which I am familiar frequently allowed large amounts of litter to flutter around the countryside for miles and no respect was shown for neighbours.

I am aware of one case in which the argument was made that the dump existed before most of the houses in the area were built and that those who bought cheap sites should have known about, and been prepared for, the problem with the dump. To some extent this was used as an excuse for not addressing the problems which existed in that area. This was not good enough.

Even within the constraints on financial resources, no serious attempt was made during the past 20 years to manage many landfill sites. Almost all the difficulties and objections which now exist, particularly regarding new landfill sites, stem from people's appalling experiences of such sites in the past 20 years. The experience in Clare was that the civic amenity sites which were provided to replace closed dumps were also objected to and met a frosty welcome. In fairness to Clare County Council, it has managed its civic amenity sites very well. These sites are tidy and there is no waste outside them or plastic bags fluttering around. Everything is under control and those who live nearby would confirm they are hardly aware there is a waste collection facility next door.

One company in County Clare tried to provide an incinerator, but ran into a high level of objections. What was extraordinary was that the proposed situation post-incineration had the capacity to reduce the level of dangerous and doubtful emissions by more than 90%. This facility is now up and running and, according to EPA figures, it has reduced the level of dioxins and other emissions by 96%. However, there was a campaign against this facility and a fear of dioxins and other issues about which it was difficult to reassure people in the two or three year campaign leading up to the opening of the facility.

People were concerned that there has been a cavalier attitude from industry and local authorities over many years. For a long time the protection of jobs and the creation of employment were given such a high priority that people were prepared to turn a blind eye to behaviour by industrialists and others which was less than desirable or necessary. We have come a long way since then and we have to face up to the fact that in many cases where industry has provided thermal treatment – usually incineration – it has been successful and has reduced the level of waste considerably.

The Minister of State referred to threatened EU action against the State. People are often critical of the EU and its institutions, sometimes with good reason. However, this is one area in which such intervention will have a positive effect and has to be welcomed.

The Deputy's colleague does not think much of it.

The Deputy should not draw me out.

The Deputy should tell us what he thinks.

If we are proactive in the EU, in most cases the benefits far outweigh whatever shortcomings there may be.

We also need to be aware of the experience in continental Europe regarding new innovations and waste treatment methods. Some of my former colleagues on Clare County Council visited a facility in Germany which was hailed as the new messiah, but which has since been closed as it was not successful. When moving into the area of innovative facilities we must ensure they have been tried and tested successfully. With the exception of Dublin, there is a difficulty in that the levels of waste which are likely to go to the regional centres may not be enough to justify the costs or to ensure the efficient running of the kinds of facilities which may be considered at this stage.

I welcome the fact that the Minister made considerable reference to the need for waste minimisation. The plastic bag levy is a move in the right direction in this regard. It is cheaper to minimise the level of waste than to recycle it or to deal with goods which are non-recyclable.

The segregation, reuse and recovery of waste is an area in which we have not made much progress, but which we will have to address. This Bill will make it easier to address this issue and we are facing up to the fact that it is going to take a large amount of financial resources to deal with this issue. The October 1998 policy statement entitled Changing Our Ways set out some of what is required in this regard, but we have made little progress since. One lesson we have learned is that it is difficult to change our ways and we find it difficult to do so. In fairness to local authorities, which have been tardy in addressing the requirements under the 1996 Act, they have faced what they have seen as insurmountable or significant difficulties. They have to deal with the fact that people have a fear of incinerators, dioxins and anything which might arise from such a process. If people want landfill sites they would wish them to be located as far away as possible. This is mainly due to experience over the years. We have a target for recycling or biologically treating 40% or 50% of our waste, but we will need to meet a higher target. I wish the Minister well with this legislation.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Farrelly and Deenihan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. The hallmark of this Government has been its inability to provide public services and to effectively deal with the demands of a growing economy and of the public for quality public services. This applies to health, education and housing. Citizens know that in a time of unprecedented economic success, their access to services is deteriorating. Research shows that inequality is growing despite the money available to the Minister for Finance in his budget.

This debate concerns waste management and how to put in place an effective waste management system. Never has it been clearer that the Government is unable to take the decisions required to progress waste management plans. A couple of weeks after the Nice treaty was rejected, and with so much talk about the democratic deficit, the fact that people were not consulted and the need to explain and educate the public, it is ironic that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has introduced a Bill that will bypass local communities, local authority members and other elected representatives. Why is this? It is because he has not had enough consultation and cannot reach agreement. Therefore, he is going to railroad the legislation through the House and deal with what he calls "obstacles".

My colleague, Deputy Clune, dealt comprehensively with this matter in her opening address. She asked what the obstacles are – they are the community and the local councillors. The time is past when one can impose this sort of legislation on people. Even if the Bill is passed, there will be a reaction from the public who want to be consulted on waste management issues. They will insist on it. We will have to give them detailed information and inform them of the consequences of the various options, as well as involving them in the decision. If we do not we will have serious environmental problems all over the country.

We will certainly have them in Ringsend in my constituency because it is not feasible to impose an incineration plant in that area. It is not feasible to introduce incineration in this country as we have done so little work on recycling and have given so little information to the public about it. We have not provided an infrastructure to deal with recycling. Earthwatch issued a press release today stating that the Waste Management (Amendment) (No 2) Bill introduced by the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, is incompatible with the three R's, reduction, reuse and recycling. Earthwatch said the legislation does not pay enough attention to them.

The modern, state-of-the-art waste to energy incinerator is a sophisticated answer to the wrong question. The task is not to find a new place to put the waste, the real task is to find ways to unmake waste. Instead of spending billions of euros trying to perfect the destruction of our discarded materials we should be putting our efforts into recovering them. That summarises how we should approach the waste issue, and it is the real task the Government should have addressed in the Bill.

We have a 3% recycling rate which is the lowest in Europe. The Bill should have dealt with the waste issue by including comprehensive measures to introduce educational initiatives, awareness programmes and more funding. That would have ensured that recycling takes off. We do not have the infrastructure for recycling. What is the Minister doing about that? Why are some companies importing recycled plastic bottles when millions of plastic bottles are being collected here? What is happening to the segregated waste that is being collected at present? It is being exported because there is no facility to deal with it here.

The key task concerning waste management is to provide a basic infrastructure for recycling but why are no such facilities available? The Bill does nothing to develop an adequate recycling industry. We have a democratic deficit wherein power is taken away from local communities and councillors at a time when the public has shown, through the vote against Nice, that it wants to be involved in decision making. To this end, the public wants to be provided with high quality information.

The Bill takes a minimalist approach to recycling. I welcome the provision for an environmental fund but the Minister should examine the suggestions made by An Taisce concerning how the fund is managed and employed. An Taisce has suggested some very worthwhile amendments which should be taken into consideration. For its part, Fine Gael has suggested the creation of a national waste management authority which, together with local authorities and councillors, could work out what is needed for the country as a whole. Why do we have proposals for five incinerators? Before any decision is made about an incinerator we should have an analysis of the health risks. We need detailed information about the health aspects of the incineration process.

I wish to highlight the waste crisis that will confront Dublin, probably in a couple of weeks. The streets of Dublin will be littered with waste shortly because there is a serious problem facing the country, particularly the capital. This week, the IBEC said that waste disposal for commercial and business premises in the Dublin area could reach crisis point soon. This is because contractors have been restricted on the quantities of waste allowed to be used as landfill at Balleally Dublin could face the same situation as Galway did a few months ago, with bags of refuse lying uncollected on the streets. This is because of obvious gaps in the provision of the necessary waste infrastructure. It is clear that we are approaching a crisis. A task force is needed immediately to deal with the waste problem in Dublin and to consider a range of alternatives. I am sorry to say that the Bill misses the point.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the Bill. As a constituency colleague of the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, I wish him well and hope that he will be back among us soon to hear what we have to say about these issues. In real terms, the main purpose of the Bill is to provide a legal mechanism to bring the current waste management planning process to an early and satisfactory conclusion. According to the Government, the only way to do that is to give county mangers the power to override local authority members.

Meath County Council agreed to a waste management strategy, in conjunction with other counties, on the basis that a dump would be provided. One of those counties failed to agree to the strategy. We made a decision on that two years ago but with the proviso that the dump would take only 60,000 tonnes of waste annually. The county council applied for a licence for the dump and received approval for a rate of 62,000 tonnes of waste per year. Celtic Waste Limited has applied for permission to build the landfill at Knockharley in Kentstown which is in the eastern part of County Meath. The company has sought per mission to accept 180,000 tonnes of waste. Why is this the case? Neither I nor my colleagues was made aware of this plan. We voted for something but this development was not on the table. It represents a sleight of hand by a number of people and I am totally opposed to the proposal. County Meath produces about 50,000 or 60,000 tonnes of waste a year, yet we are being asked to take waste from the north Leinster region. That is not acceptable.

I have had the opportunity of visiting a number of incinerator plants. We were told many things concerning why such a plant would be good for an area in dealing with waste problems but we were not told about a number of other issues. We were not told about the emissions which can, and will, cause serious problems. We were told that the ash produced by the incinerator would be great for building roads but they did not tell us that if it became wet it would corrode the surrounding area until it disintegrated. These facts are enough for each of us in the House to say that incineration is not for us because that particular type of waste cannot be dealt with in this country.

The eastern part of the county that I represent should not be turned into a waste pit with a dump that will be three times the size of the one proposed and an incinerator beside Carranstown, near Duleek, County Meath. There is a proposal for eight incinerators in this Bill yet there is not one proposal that deals with recycling and reuse. I visited a 150 acre reuse plant in America that is one of the biggest in the world. The material is brought in and sorted into different categories for reuse. An individual connected with this plant visited the Department of the Environment and Local Government with the intention of getting involved in recycling and reuse in Ireland. After 15 minutes in the Department he threw his hands up in the air and said that he was in the wrong place as no-one understood what he was trying to do. That was ten years ago. Imagine what changes would have been made if he had been listened to and something positive had been done.

In Dublin people are being provided with bins. Why are we not providing them with bunkers for material that can be turned into phosphates? We have more money than ever before and so have an opportunity to provide every household with green bins. The Government has failed on this issue.

We are facing a serious problem where power is being given to local authority managers. Let us imagine what would happen if even half of the local authority managers were like George Redmond. We would have dumps and incinerators everywhere. I do not believe that this Parliament should pass an Act taking powers away from locally elected members. Power should not be given to people who are appointed by Government. It is not right. It is a retrograde step for which this Government will pay a price.

The east coast has suffered as a result of Sellafield, and Meath more so than anywhere else. The part of Cavan I come from has had its share of fatalities from cancer. This is the type of problem which incineration may cause and there is no evidence to say that it will not.

I am happy to have the opportunity to speak on this subject. Waste management has become a major issue in the mid-west region with the recent refusal of permission by Kerry County Council to Clare County Council to use the Muingnaminnane landfill site. This was done for a number of reasons, principally because Clare county councillors did not make a decision to provide their own landfill site in County Clare. When we made the decision about seven years ago it was a very unpopular one, and now we want to protect our dump. I do not think regional plans will work. They did not in the case of Clare, Limerick and Kerry. Each county should have its own landfill site and look after it properly.

It is not an exaggeration to say that waste management remains one of the most challenging areas of modern environmental management. The latest figures show that quantities are continuing to grow – almost 18 million tonnes of waste were generated in 1998. That demonstrates that landfill is the only solution at this time.

In the 1980s there was a very good paper recycling project in Tralee, County Kerry, which was well supported. It did not succeed because it did not get enough financial support. As far as I see we are going backwards. There are a few innovative projects operating in Kerry. The Brandon Hotel has a composting project and in Tralee there is a two bin system whereby residents put biodegradable material in one and material for landfill in the other. That is working quite well but overall there is no clear progress being made nationally regarding recycling or composting.

The money that has been spent on education and information does not appear to have worked, because when one looks around we are a filthy nation. When people visit the country they comment on the amount of litter strewn about. Many of our villages are currently very clean as they are preparing for the tidy towns competition. A major effort has been made by volunteers picking up papers. I have seen them over the past few days as they await the arrival of the assessors. Unfortunately, they cannot maintain this effort all year and if one goes back to the same place at another time it is strewn with litter. They are not prepared to go out and pick up litter thrown about by irresponsible people who are not mindful of the fact that they are damaging the environment.

We have a major problem and this Bill is a fudge. I cannot imagine why the Minister has given over this function to county managers. Why does he not keep the responsibility himself? Would that not have been more prudent than asking the county manager to do it if councillors were not prepared in some instances to bite the bullet? Why did he not keep it as something that he could do by regulation? Why pass it on to the county manager who will come under consider able pressure not only from local representatives but also from the community? County managers will be the target now, and I do not think they will like this provision. It is putting too much responsibility on their shoulders and will prove difficult for many of them.

It is important that scientific research on the dangers of incineration be made available. An expert from Holland who spoke at a major conference in Dublin said that what comes out of incinerators is the product of what is put into it. If clean or non-hazardous waste goes into incinerators then dioxins will not be produced. I was in Tokyo with a parliamentary delegation last year where we learned that they have 11 incinerators and a recycling system operating in conjunction with this. They are very environmentally conscious and it seems to be working very well. Waste management will not go away and, just as with health, we will have to face up to the issue. People are sick to death of looking at report after report and public initiative after public initiative with no resulting action, which at this stage we need.

I welcome the opportunity this Bill provides to debate its content, the issue of waste management and how the State and our local authorities should deal with it. I hope Committee and Report Stages will be slow and that the Members who have to tease out the detail of the Bill will have the opportunity to examine every aspect and concept and deliberate upon them before a final decision is made.

We are rushing into this without examining all the issues. We are not examining the issues surrounding recycling and the current activities of local authorities. Kilkenny County Council adopted its plan and worked with the various interest groups both for and against incineration and formulated a plan which was acceptable to all. The plan included a commitment to revisit the issue of incineration and other concepts as they were better developed, having looked at practices in different states like our own. That was a sensible approach. Having served on the local authority for a number of years, I do not see any real action in relation to recycling, segregation, composting and the other concepts discussed here. If one looks around most urban centres, there are token gestures on all these issues. The community is very supportive of protecting the environment, recycling and aiming at having zero waste. We must have that aim. Local authorities simply do not have the staff, time or money to put in place the policies that would bring on board their communities as far as recycling and the greener approach is concerned. We should ensure local authorities have the money, giving them the space and time to put their policies in place to minimise the amount of rubbish left over to go to landfill. Were that to happen, we would dramatically reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in our landfill dumps. However, the infrastructure to do that is not in place.

We do not even have the facility to shred plastic containers, though it is available on this island. Local authorities have not accessed that type of infrastructure to deal with their problems. There is not enough focus within local authorities to deal with the problem in a comprehensive and real way, even though people are willing to co-operate in any imaginative scheme with which local authorities or the Government can come up. They will co-operate once we stay away from their greatest fear which is incineration, which they do not want because they believe that one has to feed the incineration process with a particular tonnage of rubbish to make the project feasible. There is enough evidence to encourage the community, the Government and local government to examine that notion further to allay the fears of the public or find a safer process. We must protect at all costs the green image this country has at home and abroad.

I am very pleased local authorities have interacted with schools and was present, as were other Deputies in their constituencies, at the raising of the green flag at the Kilkenny school project. The young pupils had participated fully in all the activities leading to the achievement of the green flag and it was a great lesson for me to see it working on the ground. They were fully aware of segregation, recycling and the processes that involved, the need to extend it to the wider community and the fact that there was support for such a process. They were also involved in composting and understood the scope it provided for recycling and the greener environment. As with information technology, those young pupils were taking the message home and ensuring their parents were aware of what can be done to protect the environment. Parents, the board of management and pupils came together in that school and presented what can only be described as a wonderful, successful project. It could be used as a model by any other school and was a source of great information for all of us, public representatives and parents, who attended that function. Kilkenny County Council played a huge role through its litter warden, who interacted with the schools. He visits 50 or 60 schools on a regular basis. That is an essential part of the education process which must take place within our communities if we are to be successful.

One of the key issues in the Bill is the further reduction of the powers of local government members. We took on the responsibility of providing our county council with a plan and the onus was on every other county to do likewise. If not, the public representatives elected at local authority level failed their constituents and that is how it should be seen. If they are going to be part of local government, the onus is on them to take responsibility. That can sometimes be very difficult, particularly with waste management. I want to give an example of how democracy does not serve us, as public representatives in this case, and the people we represent at local government or national level. I give the example of the development of Powerstown dump in Carlow about which the community was deeply concerned. The original agreement to locate the dump there was based on the land being later handed back to the farmer concerned, level and with green grass on it. That was the picture created ten or 15 years ago. To this day, driving along the main road one can see it rising towards the sky and they are to extend it further. It has polluted the ground water in the area to the extent that its immediate neighbours have not had water for several years. Their water supply is carried to their houses by bucket. A business in the area was closed down simply because the dump did not work. The litter was everywhere, the birds on the dump were uncontrolled and it created an environmental hazard.

The lady in question brought a court case and won but the local authority refused to stand by the court's ruling and is currently in breach of European regulations. What has the Department of the Environment and Local Government done in that case? I have tabled a parliamentary question on it, raised it on the Adjournment and on other occasions in this House when I was ruled out of order. I tried to raise it at local authority level but could not. What value am I, as a public representative, elected by the people, in that case? Is it surprising that people are cynical of the whole political process?

Neither did I get a response from the Department. It was all sent to the EPA, which is absolutely unacceptable. The rights of those living in the area have been taken away and they have been left without representation and with only the courts to go to. How many people can afford to go to the courts and why, morally, should they have to do so? If the local authority is for the people, should it not represent those people and respond to them instead of putting them to one side and letting them suffer because it does not have the money to deal with this?

I ask the Minister of State and the officials to take what I have said on board, to investigate that dump and ensure that the rights of that community are upheld. I fail to see why that action cannot be taken, why my representations were largely overlooked and why those people still suffer. How has a local authority, under the Department of the Environment and Local Government, been allowed to breach those regulations and carry on as if those people did not exist? I await the Minister of State's reply. I have given enough information and I am asking for an investigation to take place.

If this happens in a local authority, given our limited power, I hate to think of what may happen when we give power to the county managers. I do not like that process, as I have seen people's rights taken away and the strength of local democracy constantly weakened.

We talk constantly about giving powers to local authorities but the Bill contains a gate charge per ton of rubbish paid to a national fund. We are only beginning the process of charging people per ton for what is collected from their doors and that has resulted in a huge increase in the cost of dumping charges. In December local authorities will add anything from 50% to 100% to that, while we are looking here at adding further charges at the tiphead. That is an unfair system of taxation, as people are only becoming aware of the cost involved here.

At the same time, we are not making the effort we should in relation to composting, recycling and segregation, which I mentioned earlier. Neither have we learned from what has happened abroad, though I was not one of those who went to foreign lands to see what incineration was like. How many counties sent people away to find out what recycling, zero waste or an economy which controlled its waste by way of greener policies was like? Not many. We are going down the road of incineration without examining the facts of recycling fully. We are not allowing for the great energy and willingness to participate among communities if the policies are right. Communities would participate but they do not have the infrastructure at present to make the powerful contribution they are capable of.

There should be an onus on each county to devise methods to deal with its waste. Every region will be different – Dublin would be vastly different in terms of tonnage, demand and policing breaches from the south-east. Different areas will emphasise different matters, depending on their industries, therefore, each county and region will need different policies. While giving powers to local authorities, a separate fund should be provided to local authorities each year to enable them to develop concepts which are environmentally friendly. We saw the huge reduction in tonnage going to the dumps when building material was taken out and recycled properly. It can be done but we do not seem to have the willingness on our side to do so. I refer to a willingness on the side of public representatives and politicians, as that willingness exists among the greater community. We have simply not fed into it. We all want to protect our environment. I served on a council for 22 years and during those years there was not perhaps enough emphasis on what should have been done – we were not as aware as we might have been or perhaps with the economy in a different state we had different priorities. That does not mean we cannot put our hands up now and say we are willing to learn, to correct some of those mistakes and to bring communities on board with new, imaginative policies that are environmentally friendly.

There are great fears about incineration. I have seen public meetings all over the country where people from outside the State have come in to advise local communities. Those people were not raising unnecessary fears, they were informing communities which, to illustrate the energy I referred to earlier, were willing to be informed and to make a change for the better. Those communities are looking to us for leadership but I do not see too much leadership in the Bill, which is why I hope we will have the opportunity to debate it fully and change it where necessary. That will be vital for the success of the Bill.

I have had submissions from the Camphill Communities of Ireland based in Carrick-on-Suir and the waste study group based in Slieve Rua in Kilkenny. All of them deal with issues relative to the Bill but in each case they seek a return to local democracy and they ask for an opportunity to participate in the democratic process which would lead to community support for environmentally friendly action on waste management. We can reduce the tonnage going to the dumps and then we could deal with what is left in a different way than incineration. Some local authorities have asked for an extension on their dumps to cover the five year period. Powerstown is one dump which has breached every regulation, yet it wants to extend.

What will we do about the extension of that dump? Surely within five years we can reduce that tonnage and then we can look at the new concepts to deal with the balance of the waste. There is no need to rush into this. There are enough technological concepts for us to examine during this period so that when the five years are up we are not embarking on a new course but simply taking on board what is happening in the world around us and making the appropriate changes.

We must do something. This Bill affords us the chance to debate fully the issues concerned. However, the community is more than willing to participate. All we have to do is listen and bring forward the proposals which all of us across the political spectrum are anxious to buy into to find a resolution to this problem.

I am sharing time with Deputy D'Arcy – agus ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Fine Gael as ucht a chuid ama a roinnt – contained within this Waste Management (Amendment) No. 2 Bill, 2001. The Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, will oppose in any way possible the Government charter for landfill and incinerator developers contained in the Waste Management (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2001. Historians will look back in astonishment at this Dáil and note that last week the Government argued to sell off the national airline to any investor with a couple of million pounds to spare. This week, in a bid to annex more sovereignty and democratic accountability, the latest waste Bill is being introduced to turn county and city managers into landlords akin to their 18th and 19th century predecessors. The city or county manager is to be offered power to override the views of the community, local businesses, farmers and the elected representatives of the people, and to decide when and where a landfill or incinerator is to be built, and how big it is to be.

Although ecological experts elsewhere in the world are showing that zero waste strategies exist which remove the need for mixed landfills and incinerators, ironically, it is other post-colonial English-speaking countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada that are implementing, with increasing success, zero waste strategies. Is it not a disgrace that this Government is intent on handing back the waste management of this country to overseas developers while Irish people who have made their homes in the New World are consulting with their communities to enforce a waste strategy that does away with the most primitive options on the waste hierarchy, i.e. thermal treatment and mixed landfill?

Last Sunday I met the Australian ambassador to Ireland who is rightly proud of cities such as Canberra where the waste plan is called "Zero Waste by 2010 AD". This means that no waste will go to landfill after 2010. In New Zealand, over 74 local authorities have given a commitment to reduce waste to zero by 2015. New Zealand has decided not to introduce incineration to protect the health of its people, environment and important food industry.

This Friday, I am meeting the Canadian ambassador and a parliamentary delegation from the Canadian parliament. Nova Scotia has been mentioned as a good role model and the Minister has visited that area. I want to discuss the success of the waste reduction systems in Quelph, Ontario, where all waste is separated into just two categories at source – wet or compostable waste and dry or recyclable waste. If a material does not fit into either category, then good government would ban it or make it so expensive as to make the recyclable alternative more attractive.

The first lesson for Ireland from Quelph is that there is no third bin for residual waste. In this way, all waste is sorted and baled as a raw material for re-use or else composted if it is organic in origin. As with many businesses, the market for recycled material is cyclical. If the material needs to be sorted until the price for its sale improves, then let it be stored. Storage is very different from landfill as the material is available to be re-used. If it cannot be re-used, then the job of good government is to prevent such waste being created in the first place. Such powers are contained in the Waste Management Act, 1996, and they allow the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, to provide for all or any of the following matters which include specifying design of packaging, prohibiting, limiting or controlling in a specified manner and to a specified extent containers or other packaging, or any product or substance.

Another lesson from Quelph relates to their rejection of wheelie bins. The Quelph preference was and is for transparent bags which could be recycled. The wet waste goes into a green tinted bag and the dry waste into a blue tinted bag. This helps detection of contamination in either waste stream as the contents of each bag can be inspected before collection. Putting the wrong material in the wrong bag or bin is the same as littering. In Quelph, if waste is mixed, it is handed back to be sorted out first before it can be collected.

However, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, has given up on reducing waste. Waste has doubled in the past four years. He has given up on prohibiting waste generation. He sat back as Glanbia closed two milk bottling plants in Dublin. He has dragged his heels on removing all green waste and all construction and demolition waste from landfill. With this Bill, he has finally turned his back on the people and their local representatives by rejecting their alternative plans, many of which are already being successfully implemented in other countries. "The People's Plan" was drafted by people in the Galway area. It gives figures and a lot more detail than the official plan for Connacht drafted by M. C. O'Sullivan.

This Government needs to take stock of the reasons the waste crisis has grown so seriously under its watch. Like the Government, the Green Party identifies problems with section 22 of the Waste Management Act, 1996. Section 22 allows local authorities not to make a plan for their own area. Instead, they can throw their lot in with other areas, employ a consultant and have a regional plan of which their area is but a part. In this way waste is not properly quantified, costs are left vague or unmentioned and in the end facilities are sought in the least politically sensitive locations. The result is not to reduce or manage waste but to hide it.

In place of this, the Minister can only think of exterminating local democracy. The Green Party's amendment to section would return accountability to each individual, town and county and, for materials needing regional treatment, to each region. The amendment which we will seek to table states:

Each local authority shall make a waste management plan. This plan should clearly indicate the processes of import and export of all waste from the local authorities' functional area. Where there is a transfer of waste from one local authority area to another, this shall be clearly indicated in each plan. Each local authority plan shall clearly indicate quantities and types of waste produced, quantities and types of waste dealt with within its area,

and so forth. What we propose involves accountability, traceability and ultimately responsibility.

In the end, the courts may well decide the fate of this Government's out of sight, out of mind waste strategy. Last Thursday in Balbriggan Court, residents of Loughbarn, the Tooman, Annsbrook, Brownstown and Palmerstown, which were ear-marked for a landfill in the market garden area of north County Dublin, won their case against Fingal County Council. The court found it unlawful for Fingal County Council or its agents to enter land to carry out tests on sites which were not yet selected as definite landfill sites. The judge also condemned the tendency of the county manager not to meet or consult local residents and community groups. The judge condemned the type of agenda which the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is pushing.

In its policy, this Government is not just being dictatorial, it is being dangerous. The health of people living near landfills and incinerators suffers. In a study in 1987 the stature of children near a landfill was found to be affected. In 1990, a study of Californian children found that there were low birth rates. In Hamilton, Ontario, another study pointed to bronchitis, skin rashes, arthritis, lethargy and depression being the result of living near landfills. In June 1999 in Ballinasloe in Galway, five doctors cited health risks from living near landfill. In areas near incinerators, which are proven sources of dioxins in a country with a low dioxin level, it is clear that babies being breast fed are the hardest hit by dioxin poisoning. This Government must answer people such as Dr. Gunilla Lindstrom, a Swedish chemist who measured dioxin levels in her own breast milk as she suckled her first child. The levels of dioxin in her body fell by 15% per month over the first six months. Her baby had literally sucked the poison out of her. I appeal to the Government not to suck the life out of this country and to reject this charter for incinerator and landfill construction. We need sound ecological and sustainable measures to solve the waste crisis. We do not need dumps and incinerators, provision and construction of which will make certain multinationals and developers rich and, ultimately, the people and the environment extremely sick.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate on refuse and waste management. Some people may believe that refuse is a problem for local authorities, but it is a problem which every individual in the State should consider. The sooner we can put that message across to members of the public the better.

I wish to make a number of points, the first of which relates to people's carelessness. I represent a county with a strong tourism industry and its inhabitants welcome the fact that so many of their Dublin cousins holiday there. However, we are not enamoured of those who leave bags of rubbish along the sides of roads throughout the county. This is an extremely bad habit. There have been a number of successful prosecutions in respect of such dumping because those responsible neglected to remove letters addressed to them from their rubbish and their identities were discovered as a result. However, people have become wise to this and when illegally dumped bags of rubbish are opened now they do not contain such letters. As a result, there is no evidence to allow a case to be brought. I appeal to people not to dump rubbish on the roads of Counties Wexford and Wicklow.

Many people returning at night from their local public houses and other establishments often visit the local chip shop and buy a bag of chips and a chicken snack box. When they are finished eating, they usually lower the windows of their cars and discharge the leftover rubbish on to the road. One can see such rubbish on every road throughout the country. I appeal to people to be civic-minded and to retain their rubbish until they return home where they can deposit it in bins. Roads are not meant for rubbish.

One aspect of the Bill about which I am particularly concerned is section 4, which is designed to amend section 22 of the 1996 Act to provide that the making of waste management plans will become an executive function. As far as county councils are concerned, I believe this will prove disastrous. In the current era of subsidiarity, inclusiveness and consultation, it is proposed that we silence ordinary citizens and neuter public representatives by transferring power to the executives of county councils. This proposal has been put forward by a Government which comprises so many former members of local authorities. Local public representatives speak on behalf of ordinary people and it is wrong that they will be placed in limbo and obliged to deal with another layer of bureaucracy. The Minister is making a fundamental error in transferring this type of authority to county managers because, as a previous speaker indicated, it will lead, to a certain extent, to the creation of dictatorships.

The importance of secure landfill sites to counties comprised of large rural areas cannot be underestimated. Regardless of the type of waste management system one considers, there will always be a residual fraction of waste which must be disposed of in a landfill. In that context, landfill sites must, therefore, form an essential part of any solution to the waste management problem. That is not to say that serious consideration should not be given to other waste management systems or that waste minimisation and recycling and reuse should not be pursued with the utmost vigour. The fact remains that the presence of secure and viable landfill sites will enable county councils to plan sensibly for the future and to give mature consideration to other forms of waste disposal without being pressurised into making hasty decisions which might be regretted in the future.

Even if a regional solution involving all the counties in the south-east is put forward, the concept of a central waste management system based on landfill will not conflict with that solution. The only change of significance which might occur is that waste which is being disposed of at a central waste management facility will, in the future, be transferred from that facility to a regional waste management centre somewhere in the south-east.

If a regional solution for the south-east is considered, the quantity of waste arising in the five counties of Wexford, Waterford, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Carlow will be approximately 200,000 tonnes. The size of this quantity means that incineration must be considered, with heat recovery as a possible disposal route. However, there are many imponderables associated with such a proposal. These include: public disquiet; the need for high risk capital to get the project up and running; problems with the disposal of residual materials, which may be regarded as hazardous waste; and political difficulties. The transboundary movement of waste associated with the original scheme will be bound to meet with substantial local opposition. Similarly, the transboundary movement of residual ash will create problems. If one were to commence such a project today, it would probably take seven to ten years to reach maturity, assuming that all obstacles could be overcome in the interim. It would probably take between ten to 12 years to get an incineration project up and running, particularly when one considers the court cases that would have to be fought in respect of obtaining planning permission etc.

Having examined the options available, I consider that a cautious approach should be adopted in the selection of the waste management strategy for any county. In the short term, landfill should continue to be the principal method of disposal we use and local authorities should upgrade existing landfill sites as a matter of priority. Strenuous efforts are being made to continue to develop and expand existing recycling initiatives. It is important that all initiatives undertaken under waste management plans should be co-ordinated so that an integrated approach to waste management will be achieved. To this end, the following recommendations should be considered.

First, a steering committee with members drawn from all sections of the community to review, promote and encourage waste management initiatives should be established. Reference is often made to consultation and, as far as waste management is concerned, if members of the public are not involved in initiatives progress will not be made. The second recommendation is that dedicated officers of county councils should be appointed to deal with waste management on a permanent basis. In that regard, officers in Wexford and other counties are often appointed to positions and six months later they are transferred. These individuals should be appointed for a five year term to allow them to resolve the problem of waste management in the counties in which they are employed. The third recommendation is that there should be maximum co-ordination with the Repak initiative in order that Government targets for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste are achieved. I am in full agreement with this recommendation because minimisation is extremely important. Bottle recycling plants in Wexford have proved very successful but we find it impossible to resolve the difficultiesvis-à-vis the recycling of paper. If four or five counties operate a paper recycling initiative with each other they will achieve success in this area. However, a single county will be unsuccessful in its efforts.

Co-operation and encouragement, including financial support, are absolutely necessary if waste management initiatives are to be successful. We should also involve the private sector in terms of attracting financial support. The Minister has requested county councils to carry out certain functions but he has forgotten that each of them must locate funding to finance their initiatives. He is proposing that £15 be charged on every tonne of waste deposited in landfills. Wexford County Council already charges £67 per tonne. With the addition of the new charge, people will begin to discharge of their own waste which will be the worst scenario that could emerge.

The issue of incineration and dioxins is extremely serious. Nobody is sure of the exact position in respect of this matter and it is scandalous that the Department has not provided councils with proper information in respect of it. Wexford County Council tried to make a decision on this matter and employed a number of experts, but members were left more confused when those experts had made their report. I appeal to the Minister to provide county councils with information on incineration.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 6.30 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.