Waste Management Bill, 1995: Second Stage.

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

The Waste Management Bill, 1995, was originally published in May 1995, together with a general policy statement and guide to the Bill. Presentation of the Bill fulfilled a specific programme inA Government of Renewal to bring forward framework legislation on the issue of waste. The Bill has received detailed consideration by Dáil Éireann including extensive consultation with interested parties by the Dáil Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs. The Bill was passed by the Dáil on 15 December 1995 with the revised short title the “Waste Management Bill, 1995”, which more accurately reflects its broad scope.

In the course of the debates in Dáil Éireann, I tried to be positive and receptive to the various amendments put forward. The Bill as presented to this House incorporates a significant number of amendments which I accepted, or initiated myself, in the Dáil. I want to signify to the House that I am willing to adopt a similar approach here.

The essential purposes of the measures which are provided for in the Bill are: to prevent and reduce waste production; to encourage and assist the recycling and recovery of waste and to apply strict control on the collection, movement and disposal of waste to reduce the risk to, and the impact on, the environment from these activities.

The Waste Management Bill now before this House will provide a comprehensive and yet flexible framework for legislative support for these policies well into the next century. I look forward to a positive and constructive debate here.

In recent decades we have witnessed a profound change in our attitudes to the environment. Economic growth and development remain important goals, but we now appreciate more fully that proper care must be taken of our environmental resources on which economic activity and, indeed, human survival ultimately are based. Sustainable development requires that, in pursuing economic development to meet the needs of the present generation, we do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs in turn. Environmental protection and economic development must be mutually consistent and supportive. However, it can be difficult to give practical expression to this simple concept. This is particularly true in relation to waste management.

AGENDA 21, the most important product of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, stated that—

human health and environmental quality are being continually degraded by the increasing amount of waste being produced, despite increasing efforts to prevent waste accumulation and to promote recycling.

The statistics underlying these comments are convincing. The OECD area, comprising the world's most developed countries, generated some 9 billion tonnes of waste in 1990, including more than 300 million tonnes of hazardous waste. The European Union Fifth Environment Action Programme notes, as a disquieting trend, that despite increased efforts at waste prevention and recycling, waste production in the Community increased by 13 per cent between 1987 and 1992.

In Ireland we now generate annually an estimated 9 million tonnes of municipal and industrial waste in addition to even larger quantities of agricultural and other wastes. Municipal waste from the domestic and commercial sectors amounts to some 1.7 million tonnes and there are substantial costs associated with the safe management of these wastes. In 1994, expenditure on waste management by local authorities alone exceeded £65 million.

This pattern of waste generation is creating demands which are beyond the carrying capacity of the environment to sustain. However, waste is one of the most complex and problematic areas of present day environmental management. Waste issues are inextricably linked with consumption, lifestyle, economic activity and industrial policy. The solution requires acceptance of the principle of shared responsibility for the environment by everyone in the community. It will also require radical changes to current waste management practices and adjustments for all of us in our lifestyles.

European Union legislation and policy now represents a major input to the approach to waste management in all European member states. Almost all waste comes within the scope of the important Framework Directive on Waste which was updated in 1991. There are several EU directives in relation to specific aspects of waste, such as incineration, waste oils, batteries, PCBs, packaging, imports and exports of waste. Draft directives are also under consideration in relation to landfill of waste and end-of-life vehicles.

The European Union involvement in waste issues is driven by the need to provide a high level of protection for the environment and also to maintain a level playing field for industry and business. It is motivated by the transboundary nature of many waste issues and by the need to ensure an integrated and adequate network of waste management facilities right across the European Union. Few countries are completely self-sufficient in this regard: it can be necessary to rely on specialised facilities located elsewhere in the EU for disposal and recycling of certain wastes.

EU waste policy is based on a well known hierarchy of principles: these give first preference to prevention and minimisation of waste, then to their reuse and recovery, and finally to the environmentally sound disposal of wastes which cannot otherwise be dealt with.

Ireland too is experiencing many changes of attitude and practice in reaction to waste management. The public has become rightly more sensitive to the environmental aspects of waste management and disposal. This is leading to increased public support for waste prevention and recycling in addition to insistence on higher standards of waste disposal.

Major changes on the ground are visible compared to recent years. More than 400 collection points for recyclable materials have been established around the country. New landfills have been provided which embody sophisticated leachate and gas control systems. The price of waste disposal is rising substantially as a result of the implementation of higher standards. These higher costs in themselves provide an incentive to prevent and recycle waste. There is a growing involvement of the private sector in Irish waste operations.

The national strategy, "Recycling for Ireland", has placed the promotion of recycling high on the Government's agenda. The focus of this strategy is on the commercial and domestic waste streams. It sets an overall target of diverting 20 per cent of this waste from landfill to recycling within five years, compared to the current diversion rate of only 8 per cent. In line with the concept of producer responsibility, an industry task force was formed to respond to this strategy and to develop a mechanism whereby industry can deliver on the national recycling targets set by the Government. The result was the launch last week of the REPAK initiative which commits Irish business and industry to a proactive and organised role in promoting recycling of packing wastes.

A range of other measures and instruments is being developed to promote a more sustainable approach to waste management in Ireland. These include the application of integrated pollution control licensing under the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992, for certain waste activities; development by the agency of criteria and procedures for the selection, management, operation, closure and aftercare of landfill sites by local authorities; provision of EU co-financing, under the operational programme for environmental services 1994-99 of approximately £30 million to assist better waste planning and the provision of waste recovery and hazardous waste management facilities; a study by the Economic and Social Research Institute on economic elements of a strategy for optimal solid waste management in Ireland and for the use of economic instruments for environmental purposes, which was published in November 1995 and a major project on waste statistics which is being carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency.

All these responses show that many changes have already taken place in Ireland in favour of more progressive and sustainable approaches to waste management. The Waste Management Bill is a new and major contribution to this process. It is a framework proposal which will provide the necessary enabling and regulatory powers to apply and adapt policy measures in the face of changing environmental, economic. technical and administrative conditions. With the enactment of the Bill, Ireland's framework of environmental legislation will be substantially complete.

Fundamental principles are clearly established in the Bill. Many of the specific measures and obligations for which provision is made, together with many detailed technical standards and administrative procedures, will remain to be applied by way of secondary legislation, which will follow as a matter of priority after the Bill is enacted.

The main objectives of the Bill are a more effective organisation of public authority functions in relation to waste management, involving new or redefined roles for the Minister for the Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities; a range of measures which can be applied as necessary to improve our performance in relation to prevention, minimisation and recovery of wastes and a comprehensive statutory framework for the applications of higher environmental standards in response to EU and national waste management requirements. I will first outline the Bill's structure and then describe some of its more important features. I will be glad to respond at the conclusion of Second Stage to any points or queries Senators raise.

The Bill is broadly structured in seven parts. Part I contains standard provisions dealing with such matters as interpretation, regulations, offences, penalties and other general matters. There are also provisions regarding information, monitoring and inspection and the powers of authorised officers. Part II deals with waste management planning and provides for the making of a national hazardous waste management plan by the Environmental Protection Agency and for improved and systematic arrangements for local authority waste management plans.

Part III provides a framework for wide ranging measures in support of waste prevention, minimisation and recovery. Part IV provides for basic obligations on all holders of waste, including householders, to prevent environmental pollution and for the control of waste collection and the movement of waste internally and internationally. Part V provides for the establishment of an integrated licensing system to be operated by the Environmental Protection Agency in respect of major waste recovery and disposal activities and for alternative controls in respect of other lower risk activities.

Part VI contains provisions allowing various measures to be taken to prevent or mitigate environmental pollution caused by waste, similar to equivalent provisions under air and water pollution legislation. Part VII contains miscellaneous provisions and deals in particular with policy directions in relation to waste planning, licensing and the movement of waste, the authorisation of waste disposal under other enactments and powers to give effect to further EU obligations on waste.

The First and Second Schedules specify categories of waste and hazardous waste. The Third and Fourth Schedules specify waste recovery and disposal activities which are licensable, while the Fifth Schedule deals with repeals and revocations.

The scope of the Bill as defined in Part I is very broad. The Bill relates to all types of waste other than the specific wastes and waste activities excluded by section 3, which are already covered by existing legislation. These exclusions relate principally to sewage and sewage effluent, radioactive wastes and dumping at sea, all of which are controlled under statutory codes already in force.

The Bill does not extend to the reform and updating of the law on litter, which is at present contained in the Litter Act, 1982. I am committed to this as a separate legislative proposal which I hope to publish within a matter of months. I will return to the House with my proposals on litter in 1996. Litter is different from a generality of waste — for example, it is difficult to ascribe ownership to it and it does not present the characteristics of toxicity associated with solid wastes which the Bill will control. It is generally dealt with separately from solid waste. However, it is my intention on Committee Stage to bring forward amendments to the Waste Management Bill to replace and incorporate in waste legislation certain provisions of the Litter Act dealing with abandoned vehicles. This issue is important enough to bring to the House immediately rather than wait for the litter Bill which will follow later this year.

Part II provides for a more rigorous waste planning system involving, for the first time, a formal procedure for public consultation and input. The present position is that county councils and county borough corporations are required to prepare waste management plans, in respect of both non-hazardous and "special" wastes. The Bill provides that the Environmental Protection Agency will be required to prepare a national hazardous waste management plan. Other public authorities having a function in relation to hazardous waste will be required to have due regard to provisions contained in the national plan. The agency will be empowered to issue specific recommendations to individual local authorities arising from this plan.

County councils and county borough corporations will continue to prepare detailed waste management plans, either individually or jointly, to be reviewed every five years. These plans will deal primarily with non-hazardous wastes. A formal procedure for public consultation is being introduced to provide for public input before the preparation of a plan commences and again when a draft plan is available.

The Bill specifies certain matters to be dealt with in waste and hazardous waste management plans. Specifically, all waste management plans will be required to focus closely on the scope for waste prevention and waste recovery, including recycling. The Minister will have power to specify in detail the form and content of local authority plans, to require local authorities to co-ordinate their plans or to make joint plans, and to require that a local authority plan may be varied. These proposals are intended to significantly strengthen the function of planning for waste management.

Part III of the Bill contains various innovative provisions aimed at minimising the production of waste and maximising the recovery of such waste as cannot be avoided. Section 28 especially deals with waste prevention and represents the significant "front-end" approach to secure the avoidance of waste. For the first time, there will be a general obligation on persons engaged in any agricultural, commercial or industrial activity to have regard to the need to minimise waste.

The section provides for support programmes in respect of research and development projects and for the imposition of a range of possible regulatory measures. These may include requirements on service, commercial or industrial activity to carry out waste audits and waste reduction programmes, requirements on the producers to carry out life cycle assessments of the environmental impacts of their products and stringent controls upon the import, production or use of problematic substances or products. They may also include the publication of reports by businesses as to the plans they have and the steps they have taken to comply with all these regulations.

Section 29 provides for a range of measures to promote the recovery of waste, including important reserve powers for the Minister for the Environment. For example, the Minister will be empowered to introduce mandatory deposit and refund schemes, take-back requirements to be operated by producers or consumers and charges by retailers for products or packaging. Section 29 also provides for a scheme of recycling credits to be operated by local authorities.

These powers would enable the Government and relevant environmental authorities to secure our national waste recycling objectives using a traditional command and control approach. However, the Government has decided not to adopt this approach in the first instance. Instead, industry is being entrusted with responsibility to meet specific objectives on a voluntary basis.

Senators will be aware of the new organisation, launched last week, REPAK, which will be run and financed by industry to co-ordinate and finance the collection and recycling of packaging waste. Such voluntary, industry led recycling schemes have already achieved good results in other EU and OECD countries, and this voluntary arrangement between Government and industry may be the forerunner of other co-operative measures for the benefit of the environment.

I have already indicated that I am prepared to deploy all appropriate powers that will be available to me under the Bill in order to support the operation of voluntary schemes. I will not accept a situation where an unfair burden is carried by progressive businesses which participate voluntarily and responsibly in arrangements such as REPAK. There will be no free rides for those companies who choose to be environmentally less sensitive.

Fears were expressed in the other House on my approach on this issue, where I would, in the first instance, seek voluntary compliance. The initial response from IBEC and the launch of REPAK has given me great heart and underscores the correctness of the approach to harness voluntary goodwill and support in the first instance. However, ultimately, I am seeking from the House a range of specific powers in the Bill to ensure that the targets are reached, if not by voluntary measures, then by enacting the statutory provision I am seeking.

I expect public authorities to lead by example in relation to pursuing sustainable activity and demonstrating best environmental management practice through good housekeeping and environmentally sensitive procurement policies. Sections 30 and 31 make appropriate provision in this regard. Among other things, they require the Minister for the Environment to promulgate a comprehensive programme for the prevention, minimisation and recovery of waste by public authorities in carrying out their operations.

Part IV relates to the holding, collection and movement of waste. This Part contains some of the basic statutory provisions for environmental protection against irresponsible handling or disposal of waste. Section 32 expressly prohibits any person from holding, recovering, transporting or disposing of waste in a manner which may cause environmental pollution. It prohibits a person holding waste from handing the waste over to a person who is not properly authorised to deal with such waste.

Part IV also clarifies and expands the role of local authorities in relation to waste collection. In general, local authorities will be required to ensure that there is an adequate household waste collection service within their functional area and, if necessary, to provide or arrange for the provision of necessary services. Local authorities will be empowered to provide collection services for non-household wastes at their own discretion. Waste collection services are increasingly being provided by commercial operators. In order to ensure that these operations are carried out in an environmentally sound manner, the Bill provides that commercial collectors of waste will require a permit from the relevant local authority.

Local authorities will also be empowered to make bye-laws controlling the presentation of waste for collection within their areas. Bye-laws could be used, for example, to regulate the time and manner for leaving out waste for collection. We all see people leaving out plastic bags for collection days in advance. They will have the power to make bye-laws to reduce litter and to facilitate the segregation and separation of recyclable wastes. The Bill provides wide powers for the Environmental Protection Agency and major local authorities to control the movement of individual waste consignments within the country and internationally.

Part V of the Bill relates to the provision and licensing of waste recovery and disposal facilities. The major local authorities will have a statutory duty to ensure that there are adequate facilities for the recovery or disposal of domestic wastes arising in their areas, and will be empowered to provide any other infrastructure considered necessary for good waste management.

A major organisational reform proposed in the Bill is that the Environmental Protection Agency will be made responsible for the licensing of all significant waste recovery and disposal facilities. The present position is that county councils and county borough corporations are responsible for the planning, organisation, authorisation and supervision of waste operations in their functional areas. These local authorities are, therefore, in the invidious position of being both poacher and gamekeeper in relation to waste disposal. This situation does not foster public confidence in local authority landfills, some of which are known to be operating below acceptable standards. It is more appropriate that waste disposal and recovery operations be licensed by a competent third party; the Environmental Protection Agency is the appropriate body, having the necessary expertise to fulfil this important regulatory role.

Before granting a waste licence, the agency must be satisfied, among other things, that the best available technology not entailing excessive costs — BATNEEC — will be used to prevent, limit or reduce emissions from the activities concerned, that such emissions will comply with any relevant environmental standards and that the activity will not cause environmental pollution. The enforcement of waste licence conditions will be a matter for the agency.

The agency will continue to operate the integrated pollution control licensing system established under the 1992 Act, where applicable, to control waste disposal activities. Those activities, which are already licensable under the 1992 Act, will not require a licence under this legislation.

The Bill's provisions for public consultation and the making of objections in relation to licensing decisions are similar to those applying at present in relation to licences granted by the agency under the 1992 Act and reflect the need for meaningful public participation while also facilitating the speedy processing of licence applications.

The recovery of sludges and natural, non-hazardous agricultural wastes will not need a waste licence. The Minister for the Environment will have power under section 39 to exempt other specified waste activities from waste licensing and to apply other appropriate controls. For all these wastes, the Bill provides for the possibility of alternative regulatory controls to be implemented by local authorities.

I am satisfied that the licensing regime provided for under this Bill will be rigorous and effective and will enable us to fully apply existing and prospective EU standards and requirements in relation to waste recovery and disposal in a manner which also engenders public confidence.

Local authorities will be responsible for the day to day supervision of waste activities generally within their functional areas. Offences under the Bill will carry maximum penalties of fines up to £1,500 and/or imprisonment for six months on summary conviction and of fines up to £10 million and/or imprisonment for ten years on conviction on indictment. These penalties reflect the potential threat posed by improper waste management and are of an appropriate magnitude to act as a deterrent to would be polluters.

Part VI of the Bill contains a range of provisions for various purposes. I refer in particular to section 64 which covers the provision of information in relation to the mass balance of substances used, consumed and released into the environment by particular processes. The mass balance approach which is provided for in this section will ensure that a comprehensive range of information may be obtained to facilitate the preparation of a national toxics emissions inventory by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is intended to improve the quantity and quality of information available to the public and to facilitate and encourage the progressive reduction of certain hazardous wastes. There is a commitment in this regard inA Government of Renewal.

A requirement on companies to report on their waste production for the purposes of a toxics release inventory has been shown in the United States and some other countries as a most effective means to promote waste reduction. It has gained widespread support, including support from the companies, many of which were initially surprised at the magnitude of their releases into the environment and the potential for cost savings by reducing waste at source. I had interesting discussions with major companies on this matter and I detected a strong willingness to become involved in the analysis of their waste production at source. There is a significant body of international opinion that reductions of toxic waste at source can best be achieved through a combination of legislative requirements to secure good quality data on problematic substances and voluntary measures targeted at these substances and wastes.

The Waste Management Bill will have economic and financial implications for industrial, commercial, agricultural and consumer interests as well as public authorities. Increased costs will arise as a consequence of more stringent regulatory standards for waste treatment and disposal as well as recycling obligations which we will impose. The Bill will, therefore, impact financially on all of us, whether as taxpayers or consumers. This is necessary so as to bring fuller pricing transparency to the impact of various consumer goods on the environment. There is now widespread acceptance that the throw away society is not sustainable. I am confident that Irish householders, consumers and businesses will accept their responsibilities in this regard.

We need a major conversion of public attitudes and behaviour towards the need for waste prevention. We need also a significant increase in recycling performance, accompanies and supported by an expansion in and improvement of waste management facilities. Finally, there is scope for significant development of the private waste sector and for a more systematic application of the principles of shared responsibility, producer responsibility and that the polluter pays. The Waste Management Bill is comprehensive and in many respects radical legislation which I believe will support all the objectives I have outlined.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Globally each year 5.2 million people, including 4 million children, die from disease caused by the improper disposal of sewage and solid waste. It has been estimated that the amount and variety of waste could increase four or five fold by 2025 and waste disposal costs will double and treble by the end of the decade. Against this background, it is time we put our legislative house in order and this Bill is a start.

There has been widespread concern about waste and pollution in Ireland but little if any code of law on waste generally has been put in place. Ireland has been much in arrears in the implementation of EU directives and not much progress has been made in advancing legislation to meet the current problems or face up to the challenges waste will present in the future. The Public Health Acts of the last century and legislation to deal with specific problems are the only legislative arrangements in place. The time is, therefore, long overdue for a major overhaul of our legislation and this measure, complex though it is, is a vitally urgent and necessary start in that process.

Ireland has a poor record in this area. Most waste is handled by local authorities and many dumps were carelessly located, badly managed and caused local distress and upset. This poor record has had the result that waste disposal sites are feared and opposed by every community. Problems are increasing at an alarming rate and speedy action is required to deal with them. Changing this poor record so that people can be positive rather than negative in matters of waste disposal and control is a huge problem and I am not certain the proposals before us will tackle that issue. I fear that rather than resolving some of the matters, the legislation may complicate things. Having studied it carefully, I feel the Bill is a recipe for continuing chaos and indecision on our problems. Even the approach of the legislation is disconcerting. One reaches Part VI or VII of the Bill before it discusses issues relating to Part I. This creates a recipe for confusion and there should be more direction in that regard.

I will raise questions on various sections of the Bill — I will not query every section but there is need for clarification which, if forthcoming, will mean it will not be necessary to table further amendments. I am conscious of the number of amendments and changes made to the legislation since it was published and I thank the Minister for his assurance that he will be forthcoming in dealing with some of the amendments we wish to put forward.

Section 3 excludes certain matters covered by various Acts, such as the Dumping at Sea Act, the Air Pollution Act and the Radiological Protection Act. This is desirable because, in an area which is so complex, it is better to deal with specific issues with specific legislation than covering many issues in one Bill.

I have some difficulty with the Bill before us because it endeavours to do too many things. The result will be confusion about what is intended and the fear that important issues which need to be tackled quickly may not be covered. I suggest that in the interest of providing a comprehensive, clearly defined national policy, it is desirable to put in place a new pollution consolidation Act which would examine the various Acts and endeavour to consolidate the best of the current legislation with new proposals.

The Minister and the Minister of State were urged to look at what happened in the health and safety area in the 1980s. At that time we had various Acts dealing with health and safety issues, from the Factories Act, 1955, to legislation in the early 1980s, but despite there being, or because there were, so many, they were not effective in minimising accidents and deaths at work. A commission was established under Mr. Justice Barrington, which looked carefully at the body of legislation dealing with industrial measures and recommended a strategy which resulted in the progressive legislation to set up the Health and Safety Agency. It is necessary to do something similar in this area and I suggest that, as soon as this Bill is passed, the Minister should adopt that approach and set up a task force or body under a responsible chairperson who would look carefully at the legislation dealing with pollution, waste management and control and set down a way in which we can establish a national policy to deal effectively with the overall problems, so that people can see we are serious about the matter.

There are many sections in the Bill in which the Minister seeks power to make regulations and some sections provide that he may make three sets of regulations. This indicates that the Department of the Environment and the other Departments involved are not clear what to do on some of these issues. It could take two to three years to finalise some of these regulations and anyone with experience in this House will be aware that regulations proposed under past legislation took many years to be prepared and brought into operation. Whether this is because there is a clear view in Departments as to which way we should go, they need more time or the Bill has been rushed in order to take action to deal with the present crisis, I am not sure.

The matters which it is proposed to regulate should be in the Bill because it would be easier to understand and implement if that was the case. Members will have seen the number and variety of regulations involved. The Minister is in part endeavouring to regulate himself, although I do not know if he will succeed.

Section 5 which deals with interpretations contains six pages of explanations. I have not seen its equivalent in a Bill for some time. It is a cumbersome approach and the likelihood is that it may lead to oversights and omissions which could result in escape routes being provided to enable undesirable waste practices to be followed. The Minister should have avoided this method of legislation which may be found to be flawed in many respects and inoperable.

Section 6 repeals and revokes legislation which is being superseded by the provisions of this Bill. I do not have the time or the expertise to examine all the repeals but it would appear unwise when new legislation is not tried and tested to repeal existing legislation which may have stood the test of time and been effective to some degree. Is it proposed to repeal some of the fisheries legislation dealing with waste and pollution? Fisheries have been severely damaged in the past by pollution and waste disposal in rivers and estuaries. In bringing in new legislation which may well be challenged or found to be ineffective, it would appear unwise to repeal legislation already on the Statute Book which may have been used to bring successful prosecutions.

I do not understand the need to repeal a lot of the legislation. Will the Minister indicate if there are key provisions to be repealed which have been used successfully, in particular by fisheries authorities, in matters of pollution offences? What is provided for in this Bill may not be as strong as the existing provisions which may be repealed.

Section 7 provides for the Minister to make regulations. The regulations provided for in subsection (2) seem confusing and I am not sure as to the intention or the result of the enactment of section 7(2).

Section 10 provides for penalties for offences: fines of up to £1,500 on summary conviction and up to £10 million on indictment. Are the fines for the same offences or for offences of different types? Perhaps fines of such magnitude are needed and, if so, I support the principle fully. However, if a figure, such as £10 million, has been picked out of the sky it brings legislation into disrepute and may result in people not taking us seriously. Perhaps the Minister will explain that point when replying.

With regard to penalties imposed for breaches of the pollution laws provision is made to have the fines paid to the local authorities. Between what is to be repealed and what is to be added, it is difficult to work out what the Minister is trying to achieve, but I recommend that this power be extended. There was a provision whereby fines for fisheries offences were paid to the fisheries board for the area where the damage was done. The Minister will be aware there have been serious problems in the past in relation to fish kills. Substantial changes in legislation in that regard were made in the 1987-88 period. I am not certain the provision will remain after this Bill is passed whereby part of the fine or the full fine is paid to the fishery board for the area in which the fish kill occurred rather than to the local authorities.

Over the years many local authorities were themselves convicted of causing serious pollution and serious damage to inland fisheries. I agree with the Minister that the polluter should pay and if a local authority creates pollution and causes fish kills it should pay the penalty. I would like the Minister to insert a new section ensuring that where damages have been done to fisheries fines would be paid to the fisheries boards rather than to the local authority or in some cases divided between them.

With regard to section 14 will the Minister clarify whether authorised officers will be covered effectively to gain access to premises or lands where there is a likelihood of pollution taking place and damage being done? Some of them have been accused of trespassing and prevented from gaining access to trouble spots in the past. I am not sure the necessary powers for authorised officers to enter lands or premises in connection with pollution problems are covered in section 14.

Section 15 gives authorised officers powers to inspect premises but it should be extended to give the authority or agency power where there is sufficient evidence to close down immediately premises which may be causing pollution or will be likely to cause pollution. The section is comprehensive, long and detailed but seems to be inadequate on the specific point of having a decision as to whether a plant should be closed.

The legislation seems to provide "something for everyone in the audience"— consumers, industry, local authorities, agencies, Ministers and courts were all involved. Everybody seems to have responsibility but the buck does not seem to stop anywhere specific. Section 19 provides the power to establish registers by the agency and the local authority. It appears there will be a number of registers — the agency will have a register and the authority will have a register in each of their areas. However, there will be a third set of registers for joint authorities. I see the wisdom of more co-operation between the authorities and I welcome some of the provisions in the legislation whereby two or more authorities can get together. This is the kernel of the problem in many areas.

For example, in the mid-west region, Limerick city is bordered by Clare, North Tipperary and Limerick. There are three authorities with three sets of sanitary service engineers, plans and planning authorities but no co-ordination between the three on the approach to be adopted on big issues, such as services for Limerick city. Consultancy work has been undertaken on that matter for the past four or five years. Responsibility for Limerick city is divided between Limerick Corporation, Limerick County Council and Clare County Council. The city has a number of serious pollution problems. There are also deep rooted planning problems about the future expansion and development of the city due to the lack of a clear, overall policy between the agencies.

Under this section there will be three sets of registers. That is a problem which will lead to further confusion and disagreement between the agencies and the authorities as to who has the jurisdiction and who is responsible and carries the can. In the broader view it might be more desirable to have just one agency — perhaps not the Environmental Protection Agency but a national waste disposal authority — with a plan which would be available to the agency and the various authorities. I recognise, of course, that certain areas would have individual problems but that could be catered for. This problem about functions and responsibilities also arises in section 21.

In regard to section 19(5), I disagree that the register should not have to be produced where necessary. Under the subsection, extracts from the register may be given rather than having to produce the register itself. Where the greatest co-operation is sought with communities and other interested parties, the fullest disclosure of information is the best practice to adopt rather than being selective about what people have access to.

Sections 19 and 20, under which the agency, authorities and joint authorities have responsibility, is a recipe for people to wrangle and pass the buck. At the end of the day, it will come back to the Minister's desk. At that stage, he might examine it to see if it can be improved.

Section 22, which deals with the preparation of waste management plans, is one of the key sections in the Bill. As far as I can see, there is no time frame for the production of the first plan. However, there is a time frame for having a second look at the plan. Without a time limit, a plan need not be put in place for the next five years. I read the Bill fairly carefully and I would like the Minister to show me where it states a time limit for the production of the plan. I am inclined to table an amendment to this section that any such plan should be produced or published within one year of the Bill being enacted. I ask for the Minister's guidance.

That plan is one of the key planks of this legislation. However, I do not see any procedures put in place for people to comment on or raise objections to aspects of the plan. In another section of the Bill there are several clearly defined subsections dealing with the handling of objections to the agency and its plans. However, I do not see any arrangements for people with genuine grievances to have an opportunity to comment on or suggest changes to the published plan. A time limit could be put on the examination of such representations. Such a provision is essential in the Bill because these plans will need a great deal of local community support if they are to be successful. At present, there is no great support for waste management proposals — in fact, the opposite is the case.

Public confidence must be restored and people must have an input into these plans. I strongly suggest that a mechanism be put in place so that people could effectively put genuine grievances or opinions on the hazardous and general waste plans to those preparing the plans. Under section 24, the Minister has very strong powers and can, essentially, scrap any plan. I would not like to be the Minister in a situation where all sorts of pressures could be brought to bear on him to scrap a plan if a genuine local concern was not taken into account when the plan was being prepared. Some provision must be inserted to allow people to express genuine grievances — and I am not referring to the kind of grievances which arose over Mullaghmore — in regard to these plans.

I agree with some speakers in the other House that section 28, which deals with waste prevention, is the most important section in the Bill. That section is weak and indecisive and needs to be strengthened. It lacks the vigour which will be needed to bring this Bill to life. If this Bill is to achieve the aims and objectives of the Minister and his Department, the section dealing with the prevention of waste needs great attention as it is the weakest section in the Bill.

In his contribution this afternoon, the Minister mentioned the financial provisions and implications but he carefully avoided giving any figures. The major inadequacy in this legislation is that no indication is given of the level of Government financial commitment which will underpin it. Over the years, we have debated several Bills, such as the IDA legislation, into which specific financial commitments and provisions were written. There is a necessity to write into this Bill a specific amount, even if it is only £25 million or £50 million, to underline the Minister's commitment. There are reliable estimates that the cost of implementing these measures will be in the region of £250 million. I will not enter into forecasting possible figures. We tried to avoid doing so in relation to Foynes Harbour where the figure forecast was £1.5 billion. There was such a huge variation in the figures for Foynes that people wondered whether the entire exercise was a gimmick.

If the Minister wishes to gain public confidence in implementing this legislation, it is vitally important that he provide a section to deal with funding. The Bill refers to funding but makes no financial commitment. I cannot table amendments in this regard because they would be ruled out of order. I ask the Minister to include a figure for funding, similar to that provided in the IDA legislation. The Minister could return to the House at a future date for the purpose of placing financial limits on the provisions of the legislation.

Most of the other sections are self-explanatory. Section 34 deals with waste collection permits and is comprehensive in this regard. However, it could be improved by providing for a certificate of fitness for premises to be obtained through the District Court. Objections could, therefore, be raised in the courts while an application for such a certificate is under consideration. Provision should also be made in the section for an inspectorate.

Sections 42 to 50 set down the procedure for dealing with objections and how objections to waste permits and licences can be raised. That type of mechanism is necessary to deal with issues such as the preparation of hazardous waste management plans. Overall, the Minister has endeavoured, where no precedents existed, to introduce quite a complicated and complex piece of legislation; in so far as it might be improved, I support it. I strongly urge that the Minister consider having this area of legislation investigated by a specialist team. This might take a year but it would be time well spent. I believe the recommendations of that team would have consequences that will see us safely into the next millennium.

I hope there is no connection between my first contribution to the business of this House and an in-depth discussion of waste. If someone had informed me a year ago that I would be speaking to the Seanad for the first time on the Waste Bill, I would have said they had two heads.

I welcome the introduction of the Waste Management Bill and congratulate the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, on his contribution. I also welcome the Minister of State, Deputy McManus, and congratulate her on the work she is doing in relation to housing and urban renewal. I am aware that this work is progressing with great speed in her Department.

The Waste Management Bill, which was passed by the Dáil last year, represents an important first step by this Legislature to tackle the mounting problem of waste. I believe this legislation has support from all sides of the House. The Bill is long overdue and, when enacted, will provide a co-ordinated plan to tackle the waste problem. There can be little doubt that the ever increasing level of waste produced by a modern industrial society is causing considerable strain on our environment. If we do not act quickly, future generations will suffer greatly from our inertia in this area. Choking up spaces and landfill sites with waste is simply untenable. The introduction of this Bill will begin to deal with a problem which needs to be arrested quickly in an effective way.

The latest figures on waste in Ireland tell a simple but sad story. As a society we produce in the region of 1.7 million tonnes of waste per year. Sadly, a mere 124,000 tonnes of that waste is recycled. The present recycling rate of 7.4 per cent needs to be dramatically increased in the near future if we are to begin to alter the patterns of waste. The Minister's target to achieve a recycling rate of 20 per cent within five years, while criticised in some quarters as minimalist, is achievable and realistic. If, within five years, we could show that law enacted by the Oireachtas led to an increased recycling rate from 7.4 per cent to 20 per cent, then that legislation could be correctly described as a valuable tool in the fight against waste. The stated objective of 20 per cent by 2001 can be achieved as a result of this legislation.

It is obvious that prevention is preferable to a cure but that will not happen immediately. Every effort must be made to reuse and recycle and the entire focus of the Bill is to achieve that end. Central to increasing recycling rates, thereby reducing our dependency on landfill sites, must be a programme of education through public awareness. Preventing waste involves all aspects of society. The responsibility lies with everyone. By their actions, domestic and industrial consumers create Ireland's 1.7 million tonnes of waste per annum. The passage of law alone will not alter the chronic problem of waste but it can co-ordinate the service and create the incentives required to change present patterns of activity.

It is a matter of personal choice and responsibility. When consumers realise that 66 per cent of the entire waste produced in Ireland can be recycled and reused, we will see that radical yearly increases in the recycling rate can be achieved within a short period. When one considers that waste connected to packaging comprises 400,000 — 25 per cent — of all domestic and commercial waste generated in Ireland, it becomes apparent that consumers can make a dramatic impact on waste reduction by simply reusing one of the millions of plastic bags in existence. However, that is a matter of personal choice. At present, people are not making the correct choice.

The same argument exists in terms of paper and the excessive waste of that commodity in our society. It takes 17 trees to make one tonne of paper. On current figures, we waste close to 380,000 tonnes of paper per annum. This means that 6.5 million trees are wasted in Ireland annually. The scandal of paper waste is compounded when we consider that all paper is recyclable and reusable.

The same argument exists in the case of glass which can also be recycled effectively. For every tonne of wasted glass, 135 litres of oil can be replaced. Aluminium cans are also recyclable at only 5 per cent of the amount of energy required to produce a can from raw material. Every commodity, such as plastic bags, paper, glass and aluminium materials, can be recycled quickly if people only took the trouble to separate their rubbish. Where people are making that effort, the opportunity must exist for proper depositing of materials for recycling.

The network of bottle banks are, in my view, thinly spread throughout our community. Access to depositing sites in this city would seem to depend more upon one's postal address and consumers living at Dublin postal addresses in their late teens and early twenties would seem to have less opportunity to deposit domestic waste for recycling purposes through bottle banks, etc. than those living at other postal addresses in this city. If people are going to make the effort, depositing sites for recycling need to be readily available. While I recognise the success of Rehab and Kerbside, we need to increase the availability of these services to the domestic consumer on a much more effective and elaborate basis. In fact, as more recycling opportunities occur, they will lead to better economies of scale; and this is evident, in particular, in the south-west of the city if one looks at the Kerbside example.

One of the principal features of this Bill is the public support which I believe it attracts innately. Indeed, as is the case in many aspects of environmental policy, it was public demand which first started the campaign to recycle some years ago. It is a case where the public were ahead of the politicians ten or 15 years ago in their call to increase recycling activities. This Bill is in response to that public demand for legislation in this area and, when enacted, it will constitute one of the most comprehensive bodies of law surrounding waste management and prevention in Europe.

Popular support for preventing and recycling waste is important. It was in many respects the same support which produced the consumer pressure which led to 90 per cent of aerosol canisters now being free of CFC gases and other ozone damaging substances. It was the same support which produced worldwide pressure on Shell to prevent the dumping of the Brent Spar at sea. Indeed, it could be argued that the international condemnation of France following nuclear tests at Mururoa came about directly as a result of public demand and pressure. The same could be said in relation to Sellafield, where a popular movement of people demanded a change of policy from the British Government.

There is now a genuine realisation that tampering with our environment will not only create huge problems for today's world but could bring irreparable damage to future generations. The demand to reduce all forms of waste, to streamline the response of Government and agencies and to embark seriously on a campaign of reuse and recycle has come in the main from the public and, in particular, young people. The publication and successful enactment of this Waste Management Bill will be a testimony to people power.

Another feature of this Bill is the increasing powers that are now being devolved to local authorities. The Waste Management Bill is a piece of legislation which constitutes an active devolution of power to a level of authority where real progress can be made in relation to waste production. Dublin Departments of State and their agencies who monitor this problem can put in place a body of law to deal with the problem, but it requires a hands-on approach from local authorities to ensure the policy is being implemented successfully. I welcome the increased powers for county councils and corporations which will put a huge onus on them, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, to deliver results.

Increasing powers at local level brings with it responsibilities. I hope this is matched by the ability of a local authority to enforce new law and that rests on central Government freeing up resources for local government. I await eagerly the report of the Local Government Commission and, in particular, its recommendations with regard to local government funding because both issues — increasing regulatory powers and the ability to enforce those powers — are related to the present debate on local government reform. I am conscious of the fact that all parties in both Houses favour the reform of local government and would encourage the Minister and Minister of State at the Department to speed that process up so that this House can have a chance to discuss that reform package in the not too distant future.

The proposal in the Bill to require local authorities to produce a waste management plan is particularly welcome. Local and central government requires a clear plan in order to achieve the levels of waste reduction targeted. Senator Daly stated that the public were not involved in this process, but from my understanding and reading of the Bill there is a specific reference to public participation. With an increased and better planning process, I suspect many of the controversies we have seen in the past could be abated at a stage which involves the public.

I note the Bill encourages a number of local authorities to work together on specific aspects of waste management. This is also welcome as frequently the problem of siting landfill spaces requires the co-ordination of a number of local authorities working at a regional level. Local authorities will soon have the power to make by-laws requiring those holding waste to present such waste in a manner specified in the by-law, and this is a welcome move also.

In particular, I am glad to see that a court imposing a fine on waste defaulters has now the power to make that fine payable to the local authority in whose functional area the default has taken place. I hope county managers and officials see this as a revenue generating exercise.

From the above comments Members can see that I believe this Bill has some important new powers for local authorities but I would stress that for the proper monitoring and enforcement measures to be successful additional income must come from central to local government. Financial support from the European Union in terms of developing recycling infrastructure and helping local authorities to develop strategies for waste recovery can assist greatly this arm of local government enforcement.

I have already outlined the important features of people power and a real devolution of power which is central to the Bill but there is another feature which is worth dwelling on. Principally, this Bill will bring Ireland into line with Europe-wide standards in this area. The problem, as I said at the outset, is an international one and should be treated as such. The occasion of Ireland's Presidency of the EU later this year provides the Government with an opportunity to underline the problem throughout Europe and to concentrate the minds of all EU states on achieving our common objectives.

The recent decision by An Bord Pleanála to turn down the proposed dump at Mulhuddart, County Dublin, has highlighted the problem of finding suitable locations for such sites. One might ask "Can any suitable site be found for refuse dumping?" Unfortunately, despite the slow progress of our recycling programme, landfill sites will still continue to play a major part in waste management in the years ahead. The Bill before the House today makes exacting requirements on operators and local authorities to enforce the highest possible standards in waste disposal. These, added to the technology that now surrounds major landfill sites, may help to alleviate some fears among local communities concerning the siting of dumps, but in my view the only way to proceed with future sites is to enhance the planning stage by maximising the level of public participation in that process. Frankly, it is unseemly that all decisions about future landfill sites should be determined by the courts. It is possibly a result of the poor planning which has gone on in this area for far too long. I hope the waste management and planning processes as proposed in this Bill will go some way towards defusing the problem in years to come.

I welcome the recent announcement by IBEC that a voluntary initiative, called REPAK, will soon be established to help and support industry in recycling packaging waste. Producers, manufacturers and retailers have, in one sense, a greater responsibility than the domestic consumer, first, to show a lead in recycling and, second, to achieve targets quickly in terms of waste management policy. A recovery rate of 25 per cent by the year 2001 should be achieved by Irish industry before the five year date. I welcome the comments by the Minister that mandatory measures will apply where such recovery rates are not achieved. This could be called the ministerial carrot and stick approach, which, I am sure, will achieve its desired effects on all concerned.

There can be little doubt that the recycling industry is a growing industry in Ireland. The emergence of new firms in this area can help to create much needed employment while also helping the environment by reducing our dependency on traditional methods of waste disposal. However, like all emerging industries, certain incentives are required. I find it difficult to understand, therefore, why a recycling company pays the higher service industry rate of 38 per cent tax rather than the manufacturing rate of 10 per cent tax. Surely we could argue that the service provided by recyling rubbish, which is of benefit to the economy and the environment, should be recognised by an incentive based tax code. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to that point.

It is important that this legislation is passed by the Seanad. I note that a number of amendments were passed on Committee Stage in the Dáil and I am sure we will facilitate the Minister and the debate in this Chamber by looking at all amendments proposed on Committee Stage. The Waste Bill is a first step by the Government to prioritise the problem of waste and to start the process of changing public and commercial attitudes to the issue of waste prevention. Rampant consumerism has created many problems in our society. The enactment of this Bill will begin to tip the balance in favour of the environment, albeit in a slow but targeted way. We face a difficult task, but armed with this legislation real progress can be made to reduce waste mountains.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I compliment Senator Hayes on an excellent maiden speech.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy McManus, and the speech by the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin. I also sincerely congratulate Senator Hayes on a maiden speech which was a delight to listen to not only for its content but the style in which it was delivered. We look forward to many more such speeches. It is delightful to see somebody of an age that is considerably less than the average age of the House start with such style; it holds out great hope for the House.

Senator Hayes referred to people power — and I was excited to hear the early reference to that subject — and the achievement of the abolition of CFCs, which came about because the public refused to accept them. That is an important point because, as the Senator said, the public was ahead of the politicians in this regard. That is something we must take into account in looking at this Bill. If the Bill is to work, it will do so because it has public support. The onus is on this House, as it was on the other House, to examine the Bill critically with the aim of improving it, making it acceptable and ensuring that it will achieve what it sets out to achieve.

The Minister has taken the first steps in that direction, and has done so effectively, both in the manner in which he presented the Bill in the Dáil, where he accepted amendments to it, and in his intention, which he stated in the House today, to return with the Bill to the other House. The fact that he intends to go back to the other House means it will be easier for him to accept amendments from this House. We should examine the Bill carefully, critically and enthusiastically in order to improve it.

Most of what I wish to say about this Bill touches, in one way or another, on competitiveness — our ability to compete as a nation and the ability of each company in Ireland to compete fairly with each other. Compliance with the Bill when it becomes law will add to the costs of Irish industry; there is no dispute about that and the Minister recognised that fact in his speech. When there is an increase in costs the usual end result is that our competitiveness is weakened. That is the worrying aspect about the way we have, over a number of years, systematically increased the cost of employing people. In this case, however, I do not foresee that result although there might be problem cases.

Putting in place an effective waste management policy would, if it were successful, make this country more rather than less competitive. Take, for example, the challenge of attracting foreign investment which is so crucial to our future growth. We do not want to lure into Ireland companies which are looking for a haven that has a lax attitude to the environment. Such companies can find plenty of locations in eastern Europe and in the third world. They have cost structures that we could never compete with anyway.

The companies we are trying to attract are the responsible companies, not the cowboys. One of the things responsible companies seek when they are considering an industrial location is a strong and effective waste management regime. They want rules that are clear, transparent and fairly applied. They want certainty and they want to know where they stand. Responsible companies do not have a problem with a country that sets a high standard and priority in protecting the environment. They know that in the long run such a priority is good business for them as well.

Up to now Ireland has been behind the curve in these matters; we have had no systematic policy on waste management. Instead we have had massive uncertainty. Investors locating in this country have often been faced with running battles with objectors which have carried on for years and, in some cases, the potential investor has given up and gone elsewhere. This has happened not because we were too strict but because our approach was too hit and miss. We are behind European Union norms on this issue and we are certainly behind American practice. That position cannot be sustained in the long run because any slight cost advantage we might have in the absence of proper waste management is only temporary. In the long run it would carry a very high price.

Whether companies are Irish or foreign owned, in terms of waste management compliance they will only be catching up on their counterparts in the rest of Europe and the United States. We are not going out on a limb by putting in place a waste management policy. On the contrary, we are merely accepting the rules that are already applied by most of those countries with whom we deal. If anything, we should be ahead of the pack because of the critical importance of tourism to our job creation possibilities.

People tend not to appreciate how important the environment is to tourism until it is too late. When Bord Fáilte asks visitors to outline the problems they encounter in Ireland, litter and indiscriminate dumping always come close to the top of the list. Our attitude to litter is symptomatic of our attitude to waste in general. It is not something in our culture we have seriously addressed as yet and, from that point of view, I was delighted to hear the Minister promise that he will introduce the Litter Bill later this year. Now is the time to begin to do something. The question is, how? That is our business today. I welcome this Bill and what I understand its intentions to be. I hope that in the course of its passage through the House we can, in co-operation with the Minister, improve the Bill. By saying "improve the Bill" I do not mean that we should water it down in any way but make it more effective in what it is trying to achieve.

I have a number of queries about the Bill. The Bill gives local authorities a great deal of attention and power. That is wise. There is also a provision which was added by the Dáil — which is what I mean by improving the Bill — for a consultation process. However, I do not see any provision for an appeal process. The lack of an appeal process is an example of the type of thing we should look out for in order to see if we can improve the Bill during its passage through the House. However, that is a matter for Committee Stage.

I wish to focus on another aspect of competitiveness, from the perspective of my experience in this matter. Manufacturing industry is one source of waste, the distribution chain is another. In many ways, the waste created along the distribution chain is more visible because it is around us and we see it every day. A good deal of what goes into our dustbins and ends up in landfills consists of packaging. The Minister said he is aiming over five years to reduce by 20 per cent the household waste which goes into landfills. I believe this is achievable in less than five years if we obtain public enthusiasm for this goal. Responsible companies have always been concerned about this issue. For almost as long as I have been in business, our company has taken initiatives on recycling. However, one company taking such an initiative is not enough. The Minister should ensure that we do not have freeloaders.

Some years ago, because we listened carefully to our customers, we tried to reduce the amount of plastic bags we issued by charging a penny for each one. We contacted our competitors to ask them if they would do the same from the following Monday. They were unsure and asked if they did so would their competitors do the same. For one week we charged for plastic bags; this was a little gesture in the right direction. However, customers found this hard to take. Some customers who spent £50 or £60 in our supermarkets and were asked to pay another 6p for plastic bags said they would never shop with us again if they had to pay this extra amount. At the end of the week we again contacted our competitors but nothing happened. It is impossible to expect enthusiasm and people power on their own to work without some form of cohesion behind them.

I am a founder member of Kerbside, which is a pilot project in Dublin. We found that what we can do is constrained by what other people in the business are prepared to do. Recycling initiatives cost money; in the case of Kerbside a great deal of money. Kerbside does not pay for itself; if recycling paid for itself it would have been done many years ago. A company would not get far in recycling initiatives before it would find its costs getting out of line with those of its competition. It cannot do this and stay in business. Those who support Kerbside need to make sure that everybody else shares these costs.

I welcome the recognition in the Bill — and the debate on it over the past year — that freeloaders, to use the Minister's words, exist; they not only exist but hold back progress. They tend to dictate the pace at which we can move forward.

In making progress there is room for both the carrot and the stick. I hope the stick will remain a distant threat in the background but I recognise it has to be there. The most effective waste management regime will run itself because policing powers will rarely be exercised. This Bill should have a strong stick; the sword of Damocles should be held over our heads and come down on us if we do not behave. This is a good system and will encourage us to work because we do not want that sword to fall on us.

I have a number of concerns which will probably be raised on Committee Stage. I fear that unless we thoroughly consider this Bill it will not attract the necessary support. I received a letter yesterday which reflects confusion about this problem and attempts to deal with it in such a way that we end up with three times the necessary costs. The burden of costs is eventually imposed on the final customer. This letter was from a worthy charity which believes it can set up an operation for the collection of waste newspapers. It asked if we would allow them have a number of units in our supermarkets for people to deposit such waste paper. However, we already have seven other containers in our car parks for the deposit and collection of brown, green and clear bottles, aluminium, clothing and other items.

This is worthy and worthwhile but there is also Kerbside and collections by local authorities. In many areas there are three alternative ways of achieving recycling. Is this the correct way to proceed? Adding another recycling unit in every supermarket car park, particularly ones with limited car parking spaces, will add to costs. I am not sure this is the way to face up to the difficulties of recycling.

Section 29 (4) confers on local authorities the power to force every shop to provide a receptacle to take back any waste, not just waste created in that shop. This is a powerful weapon to give a local authority. How can we prevent local authorities from abusing this power because they may be tempted to do so at some stage? We should examine this issue in more detail later.

We should create a framework with a carrot and a stick. There should be a threat that if we as a nation do not behave there will be a cost. We should scrutinise the Bill in this light. We should bear in mind that we cannot solve all problems merely by passing Bills. Legislation must be practical and capable of working on the ground. I sense some wishful thinking and pious aspirations in some aspects of the Bill. Things which look good on paper and with which we all agree in principle may be difficult or impossible to apply.

The power to demand that supermarkets should charge for plastic bags is an example. This proposal is understandable and worthy of support but we must face up to the reality that a customer who spends £80 and is asked for another 8p for plastic bags may refuse to pay and walk out of the supermarket. This power is unenforceable because a supermarket will charge such a customer 8p but will give him something else worth 8p in its place. This objective is understandable but it will be difficult to enforce.

I am not suggesting that this power should not be included in the Bill as a threat but we should not assume that by passing legislation everything will fall into place. In a competitive market people in business who are anxious to hold on to customers will take any steps they can to do so and it will be difficult to implement a law the aim of which is to enforce something which is not easily enforceable.

I welcome an aspect of the Bill which deserves highlighting again and again. When it comes to waste everybody wants something to be done but always by someone else. St. Augustine said "make me pure but not yet". We must educate citizens and ourselves so that we understand what we are talking about.

I regularly raise the issue of plastic bags at meetings with customers. They also raise this matter and ask why supermarkets give away so many plastic bags. We do so because customers want them. Some customers are alert to the situation, refuse to accept plastic bags and bring back the same unit over and over again. People asked if we could avoid plastic bags so, a few years ago we gave a large order for paper bags. They cost 6p a bag, which is much more than the cost of a plastic bag, so we decided to charge 2p per bag. However, only four out of every hundred customers were willing to pay for it, yet many customers say something should be done about plastic bags. Since we had ordered many paper bags and had to get rid of them, we decided to give them free of charge. The number using them then went up to 15 out of every hundred people. While the other 85 per hundred said that something should be done about those nasty plastic bags, they did not want to be involved, which brings me back to St. Augustine. The way around that is by educating and convincing the public about what to do and we can manage to do that if we work hard.

Another area of education is in pointing out the difference between recycling and reusing. A number of customers tell me they recycle their plastic bags by using them as a lining for their bins when they put their rubbish into it. That is not recycling. That plastic bag still goes into the landfill — we cannot use the word "dump" anymore — is not biodegradable and stays there for a long time. However, we can solve this problem once the community gets behind it. Everybody, from the manufacturer through the distribution chain down to the customer, has a responsibility and a part to play. The real message we must get across is that we must adopt this change of attitude.

I am optimistic about the recycling targets set by the Minister. If we put our minds to it, we can achieve them within the timescale the Minister has in mind. It will require us to change our culture, attitudes and behaviour. However, while we have to do a lot, it should not be impossible or even unduly difficult and we are taking steps in the right direction with this Bill. There are important benefits for our country if we set ourselves to that task and even more benefits if we succeed in achieving them.

I recommend the Bill to the House and urge it to give it serious attention as it goes through its various Stages. It will be improved if we do so and I look forward to a satisfactory Bill at the end of the day.

I welcome the arrival of the Bill and I commend the Minister for the manner in which he has taken it through the Dáil. The Minister said he is prepared to adopt a similar approach to the passage of the Bill through this House as he did in the Dáil and this is also to be welcomed.

If a young person got a big paper bag in a shop many years ago, they would not throw it away; instead he would bring it home and it was often useful for covering a book. The shoe box also used to be a prized container that was kept. Much better care was taken of these items in the past than now. We are living in the disposable and throwaway era. Rubbish is rubbish and while sanitary infills and landfill sites are nice words, we are essentially saying the same thing. The rubbish we build up must be disposed of but it is expensive to do this.

The environment has loomed large in political debate in recent years. It is appropriate we take action on this issue and this legislation makes a good start. For many years, we have concentrated on securing the economic growth necessary to provide decent living standards for all our people but until recently we paid little attention to how that growth affected our environment. Consequently, the rise in public concern is both understandable and welcome. As the Minister pointed out, economic development must be environmentally sustainable. If it is not, it defeats its own purpose.

Objections are made against economic growth projects by people who object to everything. That culture must stop. There will be no prosperity without economic growth and while objections may be justifiable in some cases, they can be taken too far.

The objectives of this Bill are to prevent and reduce waste production, to encourage and assist the recycling and recovery of waste and to apply strict control on the collection, movement and disposal of waste to reduce the risk to the environment. These objectives are a direct response to the ongoing increase in waste which affects not only this country but the world at large. Waste management must be seen in this context. If we are to keep the situation under control, action must be taken now. In 1994, £65 million was spent, mainly by local authorities, on waste management and disposal. This was in response to the production of 9 million tonnes of municipal and industrial waste and these figures do not take other forms of waste — for example, agricultural waste — into account.

As environmental problems are worldwide it is necessary to devise appropriate responses on a supranational level. The EU directive in this area dates back to 1991 and Ireland must do its duty under this directive. As with crime where the best cure is prevention, so it is with waste management. Appropriately the EU directive puts the prevention of waste production at the top of its priorities.

Cork County Council held a seminar on waste management strategy at the beginning of last year. It was of tremendous interest to members of the council and the public and formed the basis for the plan by the local authority, together with Cork Corporation, to deal with the waste problem in Cork city and county.

We are also aware of the growth of local initiatives which deal with waste control and recycling. I want to refer to a campaign organised with schools called "Canpaign". Children are encouraged to collect and store cans which are then sent for recycling. Every year we make a presentation to the schools that had the biggest collection of cans in our local authority area. Representatives from the recycling group show the children the number of cans in a cubic foot of recycled metal and great interest is taken. Having a campaign like this makes them conscious of the value of protecting the environment by collecting and recycling cans.

The number of submissions made by organisations around the country is a testament to the interest in waste control and recycling. The Minister has estimated there are currently up to 400 recycling collection points around the country. This is a welcome development and that number will undoubtedly continue to increase. The Government and its predecessor have also acted. The REPAK initiative, in conjunction with IBEC announced by the Minister last week, rightfully seeks to involve the business community in waste management. After all, that community produces the biggest volume of waste. In our scattered rural areas, the collection of waste can be very expensive and cause problems.

The national recycling strategy,Recycling in Ireland, sets an ambitious programme to increase the amount of waste being recycled, from the current figure of 8 per cent to 20 per cent. The aim of this proposal is to divert waste away from landfill sites to recycling. Nobody in this House will underestimate the importance of this task, given growing public discontent at the location of landfill sites. Every Senator here and every member of a local authority will be aware that if there is even a suggestion of a dump coming into an area, there is immediate bedlam in the area and thousands of objections are immediately lodged. If a county council official is seen looking in over a fence and there is a suspicion that a dump might be located in that place, there are objections.

Senator Quinn mentioned the idea that "it must be done but it is not my responsibility" a few minutes ago. We all produce waste and this waste must be disposed of. Whether we like it or not we must have landfill sites and they must be located locally. Each major centre of population should have its own dump. The cost of transport means there is no point dumping waste too far away. Fears could be allayed by proper planning and development of a site and by showing the public at an early stage what would be involved. There is huge cost involved. Sometimes local authorities consider buying a farm and very often landowners in farms adjacent to the land bought have to be compensated for the damage the dump might do them. We have to bear in mind that for the present and future, however much recycling, recovery and collection goes on, some waste will have to be disposed of in landfill sites.

The Bill now before the House is intended to complement and further develop measures already in place. It sets the foundation for a complete programme of waste management in this State. No doubt new requirements will arise with the passage of time. I am pleased to note that the Minister recognises this and has committed himself to introducing secondary legislation as required.

I welcome the proposal contained in Part II of the Bill to introduce a waste management plan under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency. This plan would focus its attention on waste prevention and recovery and will operate in conjunction with plans developed by local authorities. The strengthening of the powers of the agency to intervene in the existing system of local authority plans should solve the problem of different standards applying in various parts of the country. Waste management costs money and it is essential if the plan is to be a success that everybody is forced to operate under the same rules.

Section 28 deals with obligations on individuals to take account of waste prevention in their respective fields, be they commercial, agricultural or industrial. I am pleased that the section also provides for support programmes and the issuing of regulations. If the legislation is to be a success it is essential that those involved are aware of their obligations.

Section 29 is particularly interesting. While the section allows the Minister to introduce obligations relating to the recovery of waste, the Minister has decided not to go down this road as yet. The REPAK scheme puts this particular aspect of waste recovery in the hands of the individual participants themselves. It is an interesting experiment and I hope it will be successful. The Minister has referred to the success of similar schemes elsewhere. If this turns out to be the case in this country we may find it possible to increase the targets set out in the programme this far.

With the disposal of waste in other countries many people are now becoming conscious of the fact that a common dustbin is no longer enough. It is important to have a few containers for different items. If these can be segregated, very often some waste can be used in the garden, more can be burned, some can be recycled and then there will be some pure waste that might have to be disposed of in a landfill. If that idea can be developed, it will be of great help for the future.

There has sometimes been a tradition in this country to exclude public bodies from the obligations imposed on the rest of us. That trend has been reversed in recent years and is rightly contained in this Bill. Public bodies like local authorities are prime actors in our economy and if the aims of the Bill are to be achieved, they not only have to be included but must also set example for others.

I also wish to refer to the problem that arises in our towns relating to litter. When visiting foreign countries, I have seen some villages — I refer mainly to the Lake District in Cumbria in the North of England — where you would not find even a match stick thrown on the ground. People are very conscious that cleanliness helps tourism. The tidy towns idea was very good but people here are beginning to get careless about it. If local people are only tidying up the town before the inspectors come around the scheme is not achieving its object. A consciousness of tidiness has to be encouraged. Litter looks bad and is bad and there is no need for it.

Abandoned vehicles are another eyesore in the countryside. I know there were many legal problems in the past with picking up these abandoned vehicles, but they are ugly and dangerous. They are extremely dangerous when there are children near at hand. Sometimes batteries are left in abandoned vehicles and if a child tries to start the car it can lead to injury or death. Therefore, a policy on abandoned vehicles is necessary.

The Bill also contains safeguards in respect of waste collection and transport. These are essential if the Bill is to be a success. I cannot finish without thanking the people who operate the refuse collection service. They do a tremendous job. The vast majority of them are more than helpful to the public, they help in every way to clear up our waste. It is not the cleanest of jobs but these people do a tremendous job and deserve compliments from this House.

The Bill is far reaching and has major implications for our society. It imposes obligations which may be unwelcome to some, as I am sure the Minister discovered when he was preparing the legislation, but realistically there is no alternative. I am sure that even the most reluctant compliers will recognise this. The quality of life of our citizens depends on more than just economic growth. A pleasant environment is central to that quality of life. If we do not address this issue now, younger generations and those yet to come will not thank us for it. The Minister has moved in the right direction. I welcome the Bill and commend it to the House.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. It is the first time he has been here in my presence. I welcome the debate on this Bill although I do not welcome its contents. I agree with Senator Calnan that everybody wants to dispose of their waste but nobody wants that waste near them. People have to take on the challenge of waste disposal. We did it without fear of contradiction in Kerry in 1994 when we put in a state of the art landfill site against huge objections. We bit the bullet and did it. The people paid for it afterwards without any assistance from central Government. This is where the Bill fails and where I see many discrepancies, which I will outline in my contribution. It is disappointing the Minister will not go the extra mile and ensure measures regarding important issues are implemented. We should all put our shoulders to the wheel and push in that regard. Key issues, such as waste reduction and agricultural waste, are omitted in the Bill; they are sidestepped and ignored.

The Minister has enormous powers regarding the list of duties which may be conferred by him on subsidiary agencies. The legislation will not last the test of time. InThe Irish Times in 1995 Dr. Van Veenen said the Bill focused almost entirely on managing waste. He said it was much more important to develop a waste prevention plan at every level and to consider land fill dumping a last resort. This aspect is lacking in the Bill.

A waste policy did not exist in Ireland previously. The Bill provides a general framework from which we could start to address the increasingly serious problem of waste. The legislation has many shortcomings. The issues of the production and reduction of waste are completely ignored and agricultural waste is not deemed worthy of consideration. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry attended a debate in the House some time ago when a large number of problems in relation to agricultural waste were mentioned. However, at that time the farm pollution grant was almost redundant. In response to the motion put down by this side on 17 May 1995, the Minister said he intended to write to local authorities and fisheries boards seeking a more sensitive approach to farmers served with section 12 notices. That statement totally contradicts the Bill.

The House is discussing landfill sites and pollution, but the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry stated no money was available for farm pollution grants and local authorities would be asked to take a softly softly approach to seepages into streams and rivers, which lead to large fish kills and water pollution. These cases would be ignored for the time being and the House could proceed to deal with another piece of legislation which places the focus on other agencies. Perhaps the Minister thinks somebody will emerge from the heavens and dispose of other pollutants and that no thought on the Government's part is required. Meanwhile, the Minister for the Environment wants to proceed with a programme, costing approximately £1.2 billion, for treatment plants over a period of time. The situation is ridiculous.

The disposal of waste poses a challenge. Ireland now generates approximately one third more domestic and commercial waste than ten years ago, but that rate of waste production cannot be sustained. There is a simple choice; production can be curbed or the method of production can be changed. However, the Bill ignores this central issue. The manner in which the legislation deals with hazardous waste is totally inadequate. In 1990 Ireland produced approximately 66 tonnes of hazardous waste of which 21 per cent was exported for disposal abroad. The Bill does not indicate how this waste will be dealt with in the future when other countries refuse to take it. Ireland must take responsibility for its waste and face facts.

The Minister also failed to address the background of escalating levels of waste and the important political issue of the location of the new super dumps. As I stated earlier, dumps are objectionable and nobody wants one in their area. However, the Minister did not outline his intentions or procedures regarding how this matter will be resolved. Against the background of the escalating volumes of waste, I ask the Minister to specify how he intends to reach the target of reducing the number of landfill sites by 20 per cent. The Bill does not cover this aspect.

The entire problem appears to fall on local authorities. How will they find the resources to implement the Minister's proposals? The Bill defines local authorities as county councils, corporations and county boroughs and states they shall prepare a comprehensive waste management plan. Two or more can combine in a collective area and they must revise their efforts every five years. The adoption of a plan will be a reserved function. The Environmental Protection Agency will prepare a hazardous waste disposal plan for the State and each local authority will have regard to it in dealing with such waste originating in their area.

Will the Minister tell me how the local authority in County Kerry will dispose of waste? The same applies to the authorities in Counties Cork, Limerick and elsewhere. It is one thing to make proposals, but a solution must be found. The purpose of legislators is to put legislation in place and state what action will be taken. The Bill also states in section 33 that each major local authority, such as a county council or county borough, may collect or arrange for the collection of waste other than household waste within its functional area. In addition, corporations and urban councils may collect or arrange collection of household waste.

Commercial collectors will require a permit from the relevant local authority under section 43. They are allowed a right of appeal under section 9 to the District Court in respect of a refusal to grant a permit previously granted. The Bill includes exemptions — for example, a waste licence will not be required for the recovery of sludge from a facility operated for the treatment of water or water waste. Other exemptions cover blood from poultry factories, agricultural waste and other waste which can be described as non hazardous. Undoubtedly, legal draftspersons and others had good reasons for these exemptions. The logic is readily accepted. In respect of these areas, it is suggested that a review be considered, notwithstanding section 51(2). In the past many problems arose regarding the disposal of this waste, including the strong possibility of damage to rivers, lakes and food chains. At the same time, the Bill does not contain anything to protect those who control these facilities.

I do a fair amount of river fishing in my spare time and I promote this type of fishing in my area. However, over the past 15 years, there have been some massive fish kills in some of the best salmon rivers in the country. Yet, at the same time, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry has taken a softly softly approach to those who pollute, while the Minister has taken a different one in this legislation.

Provisions will be made for the prosecution of persons, including directors, managers and secretaries, and the corporate bodies they represent. Where an offence has been proven under section 9, a person found guilty of a summary offence will be liable to a fine not exceeding £1,500 and/or 12 months imprisonment. On conviction on indictment a fine will not exceed £10 million and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years. Will county and city managers and county, town and urban councillors be subjected to a fine if there is a leak from one of these state of the art landfill sites? Local authorities will be immune from claims or damages in respect of work carried out in a bona fide manner where the employee is acting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency. Having regard to recent legislation, everyone concerned, including county managers, elected representatives and so on, must pay careful attention to this section. I will ask Members of my party to table amendments to this section on Committee Stage.

The ERSI research paper No. 26 of November 1995 estimated that in 1994 total local authority expenditure on solid waste management cost £65 million, although they only had an income of £18.5 million. Who will pay for the shortfall? The Minister will know that there is always an outcry if there is a slight increase in water, scavenging or sewerage charges. Kerry County Council introduced sewerage charges when it opened a landfill site and treatment plants — it was one of the few councils to do so. If people want facilities and clean water, then they must pay for them. Yet the Minister does not have the nerve to charge people for services.

The Minister would not do that.

It is estimated that this will cost £250 million. I would like to know from where this money will come? Will the people have to pay? I would not like to see different laws apply. If those in County Kerry must pay for water and sewerage charges, then so too must people in Cork city and in Dublin city.

Muingnaminnane is a state of the art landfill site in County Kerry. It conforms to the draft EU directive on landfills and recently received the Environmental Protection Agency's approval in respect of the environmental management and monitoring programme for its continuing operations. This approval was required by the EU and is similar to the IPC licence which will be required of major industries.

The site was established to serve Tralee and its environs, but it now serves north Kerry — approximately 2,000 square kilometres with a population of 62,000. We purchased the site from Coillte Teoranta at a reasonable price in a remote area on Stacks Mountain. It is well screened by trees and so on. The facility was the subject of an environmental impact assessment. After certification by the Minister, construction work was carried out in the winter of 1993 and the spring of 1994 at a cost of £1.57 million. We were asked to provide the money for this site. It is one thing to be asked to provide the money to construct the site, but we also had consider running costs as regards seepage, waste cells and linings. When a cell is full we must ensure that another is available.

Some 40 per cent of householders do not pay charges. If the collection and disposal of waste is to be self-financing, then charges are inevitable. If the Minister wants state of the art landfill sites, he must say who will pay for them. I am familiar with the cost of disposing of waste as Kerry County Council charges approximately £80 per household and subsidises private contractors. To try to keep landfill sites in operation, we have taken money from the allocation for county roads and have had to introduce scavenging and sewerage charges.

The cost of projects must be borne by the local authorities concerned, who can get loans to fund the work and then try to get part of it back from the Minister in the form of an initial grant. A state of the art landfill site which conforms to new EU regulations will cost £6 million to £7 million, although we only paid £1.57 million in County Kerry three years ago. It would take approximately two years to develop such a site.

The money will have to be borrowed by the local authority, with the interest on the loan to be paid in the meantime until the authority strikes its Estimates at the end of the year. Given the rates that are being struck at present, the amount involved could be anything from £700,000 to £1 million annually before it comes into operation. No local authority could take on such repayments.

If the Minister is committed to introducing proper legislation he should explain how it is to be funded. He cannot simply say that we are going to clean up our act. For example, many roads need attention, but our biggest problem is agricultural waste. It is pointless introducing legislation to deal with new landfill sites and to perhaps obtain grants from the EU to bring us into line while at the same time our waterways, lakes and rivers are being polluted.

If the Minister defers the Bill, obtains money from abroad and introduces proper legislation, with polices on incineration, farm pollution grants etc., I will listen to what he has to say. Regardless of the developments he outlined, there has been no mention of recycling, incineration and so on. This is one of the drawbacks of the Bill. The Minister must be aware that there is a high level of opposition to the Bill from environmental groups. It is generated in the absence of proposals for modernised and better run facilities. This prolongs the operation of older sites and sites that are to be made redundant.

How does the Minister intend to finance the decommissioning of sites that have been in operation for the past ten to 15 years? How does he propose to stop the seepage, which has been compounded over the years, into the waterways? How does he propose to reconstruct the land on which theses sites have been developed? Until I receive answers to these points I will be putting down amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage.

I welcome the Bill. The situation regarding waste management has become a major issue for all local authorities. As a member of a local authority for the past 16 years, I have seen the changes that have taken place and the increased demands placed on them. The amount of waste has grown to enormous proportions. For example, there has been a vast increase in domestic waste due to the emergence of the consumer society.

Recycling is the most interesting, but also the most demanding response to dealing with this problem. In latter years, for example, a number of small operators have become involved in the recycling of glass. Unfortunately, they have received very little support, which Government and local authorities could provide.

In view of EU directives, the day of the local dump near a town or village, perhaps in a boggy area, is long over. While local authorities try to find alternative sites, there is always grave concern and huge opposition by residents in a locality where a proposed landfill site is mooted. This is understandable, because dumps were not properly managed in the past. Everything went into them and massive problems arose with smells, bad water, birds carrying vermin across the countryside, flies and so on. Residents within a radius of a mile of one such dump had to keep the windows in their house closed for four months of the year because of flies.

In the past, dumps arose in response to emergencies and lack of planning. The consumer society emerged in a short space of time and local authorities were not geared to cope with it. It is only in latter years that the demand for a proper approach to this vast problem has emerged. While local authorities had to take the blame, to a certain extent, for mismanagement, they were trying to operate a necessary service with sites which had evolved but which had not been properly planned.

I welcome the Bill, because we will now have a planned approach in areas where hitherto there was no proper planning or monitoring and where no feasibility studies were undertaken. However, it is not easy to proceed. The will is there and there is some, if not enough, funding; but this does not mean that the right sites will be easily found. It is important, therefore, that an overall approach is taken and that proper attitudes be adopted towards waste disposal.

There is only one dump site in County Longford which deals with approximately one third of the county's waste. Private collectors now operate in rural areas and in some cases they must travel to dump sites outside the county. That cannot be allowed to continue in the long term because each county is finding it difficult to deal with its own waste. A joint landfill site for two or three counties has also been mentioned. However, distance and collection costs must be taken into consideration. Regulations must be satisfied when planning new landfill sites.

A major problem in rural areas is indiscriminate dumping. This destroys the countryside and affects our tourism. The media report on such dumping, but certain people do not seem to be aware of the problem. It is a disgraceful habit. People will not travel to a landfill site because it is too far away, they are lazy or it costs too much. The Government and local authorities must provide proper waste disposal facilities.

I am glad to have this opportunity to tell the Minister that Longford County Council, of which I am a member, is anxious to meet him to discuss the problems of finding a landfill site. This is also a problem for many other counties. We heard about Kerry which has provided a dump, but some counties do not have that. Other counties tried to find sites, but their plans were thwarted by objections from residents and community groups. Proper landfill sites may allay the fears of residents and environmentalists.

The Minister said that 8 per cent of waste is currently being recycled but he hopes that will increase to 20 per cent. That would help to alleviate the amount of waste and it would also create a more balanced approach to this problem.

I support the Bill but I must point out the difficulties facing local authorities.

I join with other speakers in welcoming this Bill. I always had great interest in the environment and in the activities of local authorities, particularly when I was chairman and vice-chairman of the General Council of County Councils.

We have been negligent and haphazard in our treatment of the countryside over the years. Indiscriminate dumping is a blight on our landscape which we must eliminate. It is unacceptable to dump household or farm waste on a lonely stretch of road. I support any council or environmental group which attempts to stamp that out. In some areas people dump animal carcases on the side of roads and in drains and rivers. Moving waste from a person's house does not solve the problem; it only transfers it to another area. This encourages people to dump litter there as well.

Litter wardens have attempted, particularly in my county, to eliminate this problem not by fines but by educating the public. The public must co-operate with local authorities whose dumps are available for the disposal of waste. Admission charges to dumps and dumps not being open at weekends or only at certain hours contribute to indiscriminate dumping. During the past 15 years this problem has been mentioned at every tidy towns presentation. I could write a speech on it for the person who presents the awards. Indiscriminate dumping should be stopped. It is a blight on the countryside which gave the wrong message to visitors from home and abroad, was unhygienic, dangerous to health, etc.

I welcome the Bill. It has many fine provisions. It concentrates to a great extent on the disposal of waste, a concept with which I disagree. There must be a certain amount of disposal but there are many other measures which should be considered. As the Minister said, waste prevention is possible to a far greater degree than is currently provided in Ireland. I did research and obtained information on approaches to waste. This was during my time on European bodies and as chairman of the General Council of County Councils. Other countries have come up with more ideas about the disposal and prevention of waste, because they had to. This country creates 9 million to 10 million tonnes of waste. Germany now has a population of 80 million and it cannot pile all its waste into dumps as we do. The Germans have had to look for other ways of dealing with it and they have found them, through both prevention and recycling. We must do this also.

County council managers and engineers appear to support landfill sites; the Department must also because presumably it would not provide vast funding for them if it did not. Local authority officials say the sites are lined and are divided into compartments but it seems at variance with nature to do that to material which should in most cases return to a natural form. Also, the landfill sites do not seem to work. One site adjacent to but not within my local authority area has gas problems which have come to the attention of council officials and the public in recent times. Landfill appears to be an unnatural practice.

We have many problems but the Waste Management Bill should lean more towards waste prevention and recycling. Less than 10 per cent of waste in Ireland is recycled, which is far less than in other European countries. We have a great opportunity to recycle here because we do not have the volume or type of waste which occurs in those countries. We are failing to recycle and prevent waste as we should.

We have also failed to tackle emergencies — when one occurs we are totally bereft of ideas. Everything has been left to local authority officials to resolve. This came home to me when there was a fire in a meat factory in my county some years ago. The greatest mass grave ever in Ireland had to be dug at Creggah, near Strokestown. There was major upheaval in the local community, who felt their lives were put in danger. They presented reports which indicated problems that might occur in years to come.

It was a traumatic time for everyone and I had sympathy for our then county manager, because he was left to paddle his own canoe. He had to dispose of thousands of tonnes of burnt meat and no one provided him with a plan or facility; he simply became the officer with responsibility, as the Cathaoirleach and I remember. The manager was an excellent person who took determined steps to remove the meat from its location beside a town and bury it in a grave. Experts presented reports on what could and should be done months later, but that was not much help to the council and manager because we could not afford to leave the meat above ground until people decided the best thing to do. We will not know for many years whether the right thing was done. I supported the county manager on the basis that he had to act and no one else had a better, or any, solution — there were plenty afterwards but no one had a plan which stood up to scrutiny at the time of the accident.

In years to come, people in north-east Roscommon may say the county council was wrong and should not have supported the county manager in his actions. However, it was left up to him and there was no emergency plan. It had never been thought about, although who would have thought a deep freeze full of thousands of tonnes of meat would go on fire? Exactly how it happened is still a mystery but it did occur and there were no plans to indicate how to deal with this catastrophe. That should not be the case again, given how the country is developing. I fear for what might happen in other industries in the next few years unless we think out and put in place procedures and give the local authorities the means to implement them. This does not mean emergency plans, because to a great extent local authorities have such plans and in many cases they are paper exercises. If they were put to the test I do not think they would stand up, but that is a matter for another day.

Debate adjourned.