Waste Management Bill, 1995: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment. Deputy McManus, to the House. The Bill is long overdue, but when enacted it will provide a systematic approach to tackling the waste problem.

Irish society is producing an ever increasing level of waste, which is having a severe effect on our environment. We owe it to future generations to ensure that we control this problem. Ireland produces a massive 1.7 million tonnes of waste per year. The present recycling weight of 7.4 per cent or 124,000 tonnes is totally inadequate. We must introduce programmes to increase dramatically the level of recycling. I commend the Minister on his target of recycling 20 per cent within five years. This should be the minimum acceptable within that period and we should strive to be well in advance of 20 per cent. It is an achievable target and a worthy objective which can be facilitated by the Bill before the House.

We must make every effort to ensure that we reuse and recycle the maximum amount of waste. Our society must be educated to its benefits and the absolute necessity of achieving it. We must also educate the public to reduce the level of waste. People should be fully aware that two-thirds of waste produced can be recycled or reused. Some 25 per cent of all domestic and commercial waste generated in Ireland is connected with packaging. Plastic bags and other packaging are more than suitable for reuse. An immediate reuse of packaging alone would have increased dramatically the present recycling and reusage level of 7.4 per cent.

The same argument can be made in respect of glass and aluminium cans. Much development has taken place over a short number of years in this area. When I became a member of a local authority ten years ago, recycling of aluminium cans and glass was practically unknown, certainly outside the capital. There is an opportunity to recycle in any reasonable sized town. The figures show that it takes almost 20 trees to make one tonne of paper. There is a wastage of up to 400 tonnes of paper per annum, meaning there is a possibility of recycling the equivalent of 7 million trees in one year.

A welcome development over the past decade is the availability of bottle banks throughout the country. While these are available in most large towns, they are not easily available in rural areas. The area of refuse collection should be examined. An occasional special refuse collection for bottles and aluminium cans could be provided at a reduced charge. People in rural Ireland have accepted and understand that we must have charges for our services. In the area of recycled material, special collections should be made at a reduced charge as an incentive to assist and encourage rural people and give them the opportunity to recycle waste through the refuse collection service.

Thankfully, people have become environmentally conscious but it is important that a stronger link be forged between the need to preserve the environment and have a comprehensive waste management plan. At present, the only national approach is a blanket rejection of dumping sites. We need a realistic plan to develop our dumps. It will be necessary in the immediate future to have landfill sites and it will probably always be necessary to have them. These must be environmentally safe and the public must be educated as to the safeguards and how these dumps are policed.

In other countries, especially Switzerland, there is strong development in the area of incineration. I understand that, at certain levels of temperature, this is environmentally the safest way to dispose of waste. However, the introduction of such incinerators will require full research by the Department of the Environment as to their safety, the education of the public to accept it as a foolproof procedure and an assurance that there will be no accidents or shortcuts. About a year and a half ago, I read that a level of incineration has been developed which is absolutely safe. The problem is convincing people that it will be properly policed and that there will be no emissions into the environment. If one were to propose such an incinerator in Ireland, there would be absolute objection to it because people do not have confidence in the system.

We must develop people's confidence in such systems and assure them that they are safe, foolproof and properly policed. Under no circumstances should incinerators be under private control because there will always be an incentive to cut corners when money is involved. They must be under public ownership through the local authorities to ensure people can be confident that they are operated to the standard necessary to ensure they are environmentally safe and all procedures are in place. That is down the road but it is a future development which could be examined. I do not refer to clinical waste but rather ordinary domestic and industrial waste.

The problem of clinical waste also requires attention. In my area, a private organisation proposed to introduce an incinerator for clinical waste. We were extremely concerned about it and we would not accept that the proper policing would take place or proper standards kept. The community was backed fully by the local authority and An Bord Pleanála in their view that it was an unsafe and incorrect facility in the area where it was proposed.

I welcome the fact that the Bill provides for the devolution of powers to local authorities. The management of waste is a local as well as national problem. Local authorities have decades of experience in the area and they have the expertise to introduce successfully the provisions in the Bill. There is a cost element in an increase in the duties of local authorities. The standards contained in the Bill will incur both capital and operating costs to an unprecedented degree in most if not all local authorities.

The ESRI research paper of November 1995 estimated that, in 1994, total local authority expenditure on solid waste management was £65 million with an income of £18.5 million, showing clearly that the service is significantly under financed. The report states that the cost of providing the service in years to come will increase substantially. It estimates that the capital cost will be in excess of £250 million to which operating costs must be added. Exercises recently conducted in County Limerick estimate the capital cost of providing a new landfill facility in east Limerick at between £8 million and £12 million and the upgrading of the existing facility in the west Limerick area at £2.5 million. Capital expenditure on a transfer station, of which at least one will be required in the county, will be in the order of £2 million to £8 million depending on whether it is solely a transfer facility or contains a recycling capacity.

Government policy should suggest that 50 landfill sites will be required compared to 100 or so now in operation. How will these requirements bear on the present costs and charges? Currently, the costs and charges vary around the country. Some 40 per cent of houses pay no charges whatsoever. If the polluter pays principle is the goal — in other words, if the collection and disposal of solid waste is to be self-financing — then a change in the charging policy of local authorities is inevitable.

A recent submission by the Limerick County Manager states that while costs will increase, it would be wrong to assume they will be astronomical or unaffordable. Studies in County Limerick suggest that the cost of disposing of solid waste will increase to £30 per tonne due to the demands of this Bill. It is estimated that the average household of four to five persons produces one tonne of waste per annum.

In Limerick County Council's area a new wheel bin system will come into operation in mid-1996. The cost of collection will average £65 per household, giving a nominal annual cost for collection and disposal of £95. This will mean a considerable increase in the cost to householders. However, experience shows that householders demand a good service and many are opting to receive it from private operators at a considerably more expensive rate than Limerick County Council offers.

People require a good waste collection service which they are prepared to pay for, but there is a contradiction there which is difficult for those outside local government service to understand. People are willing to pay a considerable amount of money, perhaps £65 to £70, to have their refuse collected efficiently by a private operator. If the council provides the same level of efficiency, however, there is a different attitude towards paying the same amount. Councils have a role to educate people that they are providing the same service. If councils compete with other operators the same level of charges can be expected. Local authorities do not have a dependable buoyant source of revenue; but, hopefully, this will change following studies the Minister has initiated.

Even if the polluter pays principle is generally accepted, and the collection and disposal of waste requires no subsidy, there will be major financial implications for local authorities, particularly in the short term. For example, if a new sanitary landfill facility is to become reality, two stages must be gone through. First, scooping studies must take place along with tests, environmental impact studies, the provision of public information, official inquiries and land acquisition. This could take from three to ten years and could end up without any proposal being sanctioned. It will cost a local authority £500,000 to fully investigate a landfill site.

Second, assuming that the preliminary stages are successful, two years will still be needed from commencement of work before the site will be ready to accept waste. The cost of bringing a project to operational use must be borne by the local authority concerned, presumably by means of a loan, the repayments of which will be met in part by the gate fee. However, having regard to the time lag, the first instalment of this may fall due well in advance of the facility becoming operational.

I am sure the Minister is aware of the difficulties that would present to a local authority in the first two or three years of a loan, for example, of £7 million to £8 million. Such a loan, repayable over 20 years, would require an annual repayment of £1 million with no return because the facility is not yet available. Few local authorities could carry that scale of repayments in advance of the proposal generating income, so arrangements for a deferral of repayments might be borne in mind should circumstances warrant it. It should be understood that local authorities are not in a position to repay such loans without having any income from the service, and a postponement of repayments is obviously one way of dealing with that.

The need for training has been recognised by the County and City Managers' Association, FÁS and the Environmental Protection Agency. Provision has already been made for training courses and information services for householders, industry and local authority staff.

I have only referred to landfill, but regardless of developments in minimisation, reuse, recycling and incineration — all of which must be vigorously pursued in accordance with Government policy — landfill will remain the primary means of non-hazardous waste disposal for the immediate future. Traditional systems for disposing of solid waste belong to the past. Today's reality, both from an environmental and monetary position, must be accepted; and the sooner we face that, the better.

The high level of opposition from environmental groups to any proposal for better, more modern facilities is paradoxical because it prolongs older, inefficient sites whose operation is detrimental to the environment. Unacceptable proposals for landfill sites have been made by councils, but we have to have landfill dumps. If the present situation continues, in a short time no acceptable landfill sites will be available anywhere. That is unrealistic because it means inefficient and environmentally bad sites will remain in use contrary to the worthy objectives of many people who are protecting the environment.

Under the terms of the Bill local authorities, which are defined as county councils or corporations of county boroughs, shall prepare a comprehensive waste management plan. When the Bill becomes law they would have no choice but to prepare such a plan. Two or more councils may combine to do this for their collective area and the plan must be revised every five years. The adoption of a plan will be the reserved function of the council. The Environmental Protection Agency will prepare a hazardous waste disposal plan for the State and each local authority shall have regard to this in dealing with hazardous waste originating in its own area. Each major local authority shall collect or arrange for the collection of waste within its functional area and may collect or arrange for the collection of waste other than household waste.

I note that under the Bill the corporation of a borough, other than a county borough or an urban district council, may collect or arrange to have the collection of household waste. It is not obliged to do so.

Commercial collectors will be required to have a permit from the relevant local authority. I congratulate the Minister for introducing this welcome step because for some time there has been a concern about private operators starting up businesses, which are not under any control in a free-for-all area, to the detriment of a proper collection service. It is important for local authorities to obtain control. Some authorities have, unofficially, operated such permit systems without authority so it is good to see the practice now being enshrined in legislation.

The Bill allows for a right of appeal to the District Court in respect of a refusal to grant a permit. A waste licence must be obtained to dispose of, or undertake the recovery of, waste at a facility. The granting of a licence will be the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency. A waste licence will not be required for certain facilities. These include the recovery of sludge from a facility operated by a local authority, for the treatment of water or waste water, for blood of poultry origin, for foetal material of animal or poultry origin and natural agricultural wastes of a non hazardous nature as may be prescribed. While I welcome the Bill, local authority members should be in a position to implement it.

Like other Members, I welcome the Bill. The situation surrounding waste disposal is urgent. We talk about recycling policies, but we should implement them. I am astonished by the amount of paper wasted in this House. Ministers speeches are worthwhile, but it is not necessary for each Member to be given one, particularly when the text is only on one side of the page. We could also recycle the three or four large brown envelopes which Members get each morning. There is no reason we cannot start a recycling programme in the House because it is important that we are seen to give an example, particularly when introducing such legislation. I kept these brown envelopes until I was told by the Superintendent of the House that I was creating a fire hazard. If we are to send out this important message, we should establish a recycling programme in Leinster House where the waste of paper is prodigious.

The urgency of the situation is apparent in a number of places. Many schools and universities have begun recycling campaigns. Children have begun to educate their parents as to the best methods of dealing with glass bottles, paper and aluminium cans. The public should be better informed as to the location of bottle and paper banks. I did not realise that my university has a recycling committee which has sent out instructions on where one can bring bottles, what one can do with plastic bags and which highlights endeavours as regards recycling batteries and plastic containers — objects which are frequently used in any institution involved in science. We should recognise places which are making efforts and encourage them to do more.

This Bill is useful in that it holds the Sword of Damocles over us rather than swiping off people's heads. If people cooperate with the Minister's proposals they will not feel that they are being put upon. People have rightly said that landfill sites, which can be hazardous, cannot continue to be constructed at the present rate. Regardless of what people say, it is difficult to control the leachate and there is also a problem in relation to methane production.

It is a pity that agricultural waste is not covered by the Bill. Although industrial waste is covered to a certain extent, these are two major areas which cause much pollution. The situation as regards hazardous waste, particularly hospital waste, is very important. Senator Neville mentioned the difficulties in dealing with clinical waste. Infectious teratogenic and mutagenic waste is covered by the Bill, but I am not sure if radioactive waste is covered. The use of isotopes in hospitals comes under the scope of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and the Miscellaneous Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1995.

The public seems to think that most hazards from hospital waste is radioactive. However, the isotopes used in medicine usually have a short half-life. Most waste is shorted in a secure area in the hospital and is no longer hazardous; the half-life of some is hours or days. However, some have a longer half-life and I would like to know the situation as regards the disposal of these products. Because there is such a small amount in this country, I am sure it will be dealt with elsewhere — that is why we need places like the notorious Sellafield. Will we transport this waste to the United States? However, that is something which was not addressed in the Bill.

Clinical waste is a source of anxiety at present. Incinerators in hospitals are quite old and most are about to be closed down. Following the decision by An Bord Pleanála, the incinerator that was to be build in Ringsend, which was not a suitable site, will not go ahead. What are the Minister's proposals as regards the disposal of clinical waste from hospitals, which can be hazardous to the public? The use of incinerators is controversial. We can end up feeding the incinerator with material which is recyclable. It is not a method of disposal with which I am happy. Incinerators are expensive to construct, maintain and monitor and a more cost-effective method of removing clinical waste might be possible. While I understand the risks associated with transporting such waste, I do not think it would be a major difficulty.

Old tyres seem to be a feature of hedgerows and fields. They are no longer accepted in landfills or dumps in the European Union and there have been major problems as a result. In Britain a disused coal mine was used for the dumping of old tyres. However, there was a fire at the site which took some time to put out. Other such fires in Toronto and California took months to put out. I presume tyres come under the heading of hazardous waste in several Schedules, but they do not seem to be dealt with in the Bill. What are the Minister's proposals in this regard?

The main thing tyres are used for is to hold down plastic sheeting over silage. Do farmers require a new set of tyres and plastic sheeting each year? Should they be encouraged to recycle them? If these tyres are dumped in ditches, it would be a very potent way of polluting the countryside. The United States has a useful method for dealing with old tyres. Each tyre sold in the US attracts a small tax which is passed on to the next owner. The final owner of the tyre can reclaim the tax by bringing it to a suitable dump where it is used for other purposes. For example, a considerable number of these tyres, particularly those used on heavy machinery, can be remoulded. Tyres from passenger vehicles are less expensive and, therefore, there is less enthusiasm to remould them. This process deserves consideration because the country is littered with old tyres.

Such tyres can also be cut up and mixed with asphalt for use in surfacing roads. This might help to reduce the estimated cost — £75 million — of the road improvement plan introduced by the Minister. Old tyres can be ground up and used to make carpets, sleeping policemen, barriers, traffic cones, etc., which are currently manufactured from plastic. They can also be used in playgrounds to prevent injury to children.

Ireland does not have sufficient volume of most forms of waste to warrant collection of ferrous metals. It is important that we co-operate with other EU countries if necessary to ensure that our methods of dealing with waste are as efficient as possible.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. It would be preferable if some of the provisions dealing with agricultural waste were more stringent. However, it is important that its other provisions be applied to this House, particularly those which relate to waste paper.

I welcome the progress of this large and complex Bill. It sets down powers and responsibilities for many different people and organisations in our society, including the Minister for the Environment, the European Union, the Environmental Protection Agency and every local authority, business and citizen in the country.

The importance of the Bill, and the regulations that will follow, comes from its placing a duty on everyone to respect the world and the environment in which we live. It makes each person take responsibility for their actions and take steps to avoid damaging the planet. This is the crux of the Bill. In the past, that responsibility has been left to local authorities and others. Each citizen must realise that they have a responsibility in this regard. The Bill focuses on that individual responsibility and ensures that responsibility for the environment will no longer rest in the hands of a small number of technical experts.

The amount of waste we produce is consistently growing. When introducing this Bill, the Minister informed the House that waste in the European Union increased by 13 per cent between 1987 and 1992, despite the fact that many European countries are ahead of Ireland with regard to this problem. I recently read a study on packaging laws in France and Germany which indicates that the type of legislation under discussion was introduced in France in 1975 and in Germany in 1986. Regulations have also been introduced in response to that legislation. Ireland is quite a distance behind its European neighbours in this regard.

The three priorities of EU waste policy are: prevention and minimisation, reuse and recovery and the environmentally safe disposal of waste. In the past Ireland tended to focus on the second and third priorities and insufficient attention was paid to prevention and minimisation. I welcome section 28(3) of the Bill which requires every business in the State to consider how it can reuse the amount of waste it produces. Steps will have to be taken to ensure that waste is kept to a minimum. I welcome IBEC's commitment to take up this responsibility on behalf of Irish businesses. Regulations under section 28 can establish practical and effective steps which will change the desire to reduce waste from an aspiration to a reality. Senator Henry stated that there tends to be much discussion but little action with regard to recycling. I urge the Minister to ensure that the regulations are specific enough to produce real changes in current practices.

I am responsible for doing the weekly shopping for my family. Each day I see examples of unnecessary packaging. Many supermarkets offer three items for the price of two and place them in an extra outer package or plastic bag. This practice results in unnecessary waste. There is no reason people cannot take all three items separately from the shelf without extra packaging being involved. Proposals in sections 28 and 29 of the Bill have the potential to make a real difference in this regard. However, their effectiveness will depend on the development and implementation of regulations.

How will section 29(4)(f) to (j) be used in the near future to reduce waste in consumer goods? These paragraphs allow for regulations to establish refund schemes for packaging such as bottles and jars. They also permit the introduction of regulations requiring traders to take back goods or packaging no longer needed by the consumer. In the study to which I earlier referred there is much detail on how this was achieved in France and Germany. Both countries have a "green dot" system where consumers can return packages and an obligation is placed on distributors and traders to put them into the recycling system. This works effectively in Germany where, under its elaborate system, the obligation for waste recycling has been transferred from individual companies to a third party. In effect, a new company was established to operate the recycling system. The only problem with this initiative is that it is difficult for recycling companies in neighbouring countries to match the prices offered in Germany.

This problem must be tackled at EU level. It indicates how far Ireland is behind in this area. We have a long way to go. I hope the regulations are introduced as soon as possible and that they will lead to a recycling system for the different kinds of packaging people use daily.

The regulations also allow for traders to accept the return of goods or packaging no longer needed by the consumer. The possibility for introducing a charge on plastic should be investigated in this regard. Many shops distribute plastic bags like snuff at a wake. Even if one is only purchasing a newspaper, the shopkeeper often supplies a plastic bag to carry it. This happens despite the environmental harm such bags can do; they take a long time to disintegrate. All plastic packaging — Senator Henry referred to the use of plastic sheeting for agricultural purposes — should be reused because of the time it takes to break down.

At present, Limerick Corporation is attempting to discover if a charge on plastic bags can be introduced under its by-laws. The money raised could be used to provide an environmentally safe alternative. Many shops provide paper bags but the consumer must pay for them whereas plastic bags are provided free of charge. This is wrong. In Germany a fee is charged for shopping bags. Schemes designed to encourage people to reuse plastic bags seem to be ineffective. Some supermarkets give money to charity if people return such bags but many people do not avail of this opportunity. Perhaps we should use a stick rather than a carrot.

Public awareness of the environment is growing, particularly in our schools. Many schools now have recycling schemes. Adults are far behind schoolchildren in relation to such initiatives. The facilities available through local authorities, bottle banks, etc., are not being used as much as they should. Problems often occur with the siting of bottle banks. They must be located where people can use them. Perhaps public houses could be used in this regard because they use many bottles and cans. There is a pub in practically every neighbourhood and they could, perhaps, provide locations for facilities which people otherwise might not use because they might have to travel to them and they might not have the transport. There are also alternative uses for waste. Newpaper, for example, is being used effectively as bedding for horses and other animals. We have a large horse breeding industry and newspaper is apparently being used as bedding throughout the country. It is a practical way of making use of old newspapers.

I welcome Part II of the Bill which imposes on local authorities the duty of preparing a waste management plan every five years. I am also pleased that section 22 (5) provides that county councils and corporations must invite submissions before preparing a waste management plan. It is vital that proposals dealing with consultation are used to the fullest extent. By doing this we can ensure that the people who are affected by the plan and who will live with its implications — in other words, the people who will make the plan work — can have a sense of ownership of the plan.

Subsection (10) provides that the making of a waste plan is a reserved function; it is the function of the councillors rather than the city manager. If local politicians seize the opportunity this Bill provides, it will ensure a strong democratic input into the formulation of a waste management plan. The consultation process must be real. Often such processes consist of technical experts talking to each other and many of us do not have the relevant expertise, whether it be in geology or hydrology or chemistry, to become involved. Many people, therefore, are left out of the consultation process. Even though they might have the necessary technical data available to them they are unable to use it.

I can give one example of what I mean. Senator Neville referred to Limerick County Council's plans to secure a possible landfill site and the interim report it published on a proposed site near Murroe in County Limerick. It is a good report which attempts to explain what is envisaged. However, the report states: "The salurian slates underlying the area are considered regionally to be a poor aquifer and generally unproductive". I have no idea what that means; I would not know whether poor aquifer salurian slates are good bad or indifferent for a proposed landfill site. Later the report states: "Estimated throughflow on site is 5×10 5 cubic metres per year. However, the geological services of Ireland define regionally important aquifers as those where throughflow is greater than 3×10 9 cubic metres per year". This is quite meaningless also. The report continues in a more understandable vein: "The ground water resources on site would need to be about 6,000 times its estimated size to be regarded as a regionally important aquifer". This probably explains the earlier technical language and offers people an opportunity to understand it to some extent. However, there is a need to be clearer in explaining to the public what such technical data mean. Limerick County Manager, Mr. Michael Deigan, has promised to offer full consultation by going out to talk to residents' groups and so forth.

It is important that the Bill set high standards for public consultation. The Bill requires local authorities to publish in a newspaper a notice of its proposal to formulate a waste management plan and to make copies of it available for inspection. Local authorities should go further. Formulating a waste management plan is an opportunity to broaden participation in democracy. It will also be important to local areas that such plans are effective so there should be widespread involvement of the public and an awareness of the public in drawing up the plan. To achieve this local authorities will have to do more than simply publish a notice in a newspaper. They will have to hold public meetings and set up processes whereby the public can be genuinely involved in drawing up the plan.

There should be a high level of public education about this legislation. I would like to see plenty of TV ads and publicity. Television, in particular, is a medium where products are sold through glossy advertising and packaging is important in the selling of the product. That must be counteracted by making the public aware of the fact that less packaging is more environment friendly and, in the long run, better for us.

The target of diverting 20 per cent of waste from landfill to recycling within five years, as outlined in Government policy, is more than achievable if we take our responsibilities seriously. We would probably like to see a higher target. Targets in other European countries are much higher than ours although they are further ahead in that regard. The current difficulties of local authorities in various parts of the country with the siting of dumps should make it easier for us to sell to the public the absolute necessity for taking responsibility for reducing the enormous quantities of waste we throw into the ground. The public is more aware that they are throwing a lot of material away which could be re-used or recycled. They are also aware that they are using more packaging and baggage than was the case even as recently as ten or 20 years ago. There is a public willingness but the public has not been drawn in to the extent of taking individual responsibility. I hope this Bill will achieve that.

Recyling can be an expensive operation. Studies and the experience of local authorities have shown this to be true. A study was carried out in Limerick by Michael Dillon of the Active Recycling Group in 1990 and that showed the expense involved, particularly with regard to collection, in recycling projects.

Section 29 (2) provides for any Minister of Government to provide financial assistance to undertake a research and development project dealing with the recovery of waste. I am also aware that funding is available through the EU operational programme for environmental services. My local authority, Limerick Corporation, put forward a pilot proposal for funding under this heading to establish the feasibility of composting much of the domestic waste produced in the city. It is important that this project is pursued because a large proportion of what is put into dumps is organic material and is recyclable in this way. The Department of the Environment's document,Recycling for Ireland, published in 1994 stated that 34 per cent of landfill waste is organic and that substantial diversion should be achieved by the development of composting facilities. I hope the Minister will be able to assist Limerick Corporation with this scheme. It is with the Department at present for consideration under the EU operational programme and we are anxious to put it into operation.

I have one question about enforcement. Proceedings must be commenced not later than five years after the offence is committed. I understand this is a normal legal requirement, but in the case of slow effect hazardous waste the time limit should be looked at again because sometimes the effects of hazardous waste are not always visible within the five year term. Perhaps the Department would look at the time limit again. We also need more information on the afterlife of dumps. We put our rubbish into what is, essentially, a plastic bubble during the lifetime of the dump. However, has much research been carried out into what happens to this rubbish at the end of the life cycle of the dump?

This Bill offers us an opportunity to clean up our act. We produce more and more waste and simply throw it into holes in the ground without proper consideration for the consequences. We must take responsibility for modifying our behaviour and support the provisions in the Bill for the proper management of our waste. That is the challenge that faces us. It is not simply a matter of talking about it and having grand aspirations; it is a matter of putting those aspirations into practice in our daily lives and in the manner in which business is transacted.

I welcome the Minister of State. Many of the points I wish to make will be similar to those already outlined by the speakers who preceded me. My background, however, is somewhat different in that I grew up in a rural area with low density population so waste had no impact on the environment. All one did was go out one's backdoor to the end of the garden to dump one's rubbish. This was acceptable for many years but we have come a long way since those days. This Bill is an important and comprehensive discussion document. It upgrades the old Public Health Acts and brings us in line with EU directives. We were and still are behind in our thinking.

Yesterday I talked to former teacher colleagues of mine. They asked me what the Seanad was discussing this week. I told them we were debating the Waste Management Bill and I tried to explain as best I could what this Bill was about. I found it difficult to do so even though I had read and thought about the subject.

This issue is about attitudes to what we do. We are so busy that we forget everything we do is connected with the environment. We must bring about a change of attitude to the environment and how we dispose of waste.

I welcome the parts of the Bill which empower local authorities to introduce five year plans and make them responsible for the collection and disposal of waste. If they do not do this themselves they may authorise agents, who would have to obtain permits, to do it for them. I welcome this because the system is abused by many people and needs to be tightly monitored.

Certain commercial agencies which will be responsible for collecting waste and bringing it to a facility will have to obtain licences from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Minister should clarify the differences between a permit and a licence. The issuing of licences by the Environmental Protection Agency may take responsibility for landfills from local authorities even though they have a role in acquiring sites where waste can be dumped. I am not sure of the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in issuing licensesvis-á-vis the role of local authorities in disposing of waste.

The local authority in Dublin of which I am a member is reaching a crisis point with regard to landfills because there is no land left. It is trying to acquire a landfill site in County Kildare but this has resulted in public outrage, of which public representatives are well aware, and objections by Kildare County Council from its county manager down. One local authority is against the proposed landfill and another is promoting it and we cannot deal with this problem adequately.

I regard the Bill as a discussion document because we cannot go much further with it. The moment we start talking about how to dispose of 70 per cent of waste we are immediately faced with an outcry because of the substandard nature of landfills which were used in the past. People are apprehensive that this will be the case in future no matter what licences are introduced. While the notion of the Environmental Protection Agency being a third party dealing with this issue is good, there is a great cost involved and the implementation of this has not been thought through. Local authorities are exasperated. Even if some of them combine with other authorities in their areas to think on a regional basis, the fact remains that no space for landfills is available. The problem of finding such space is at a crisis level in Dublin city and county.

The Bill provides for exemptions from holding licences for those involved in the recovery of sludge and agricultural waste. The Bill does not provide for any regulations with regard to such waste, even though it pollutes rivers and lakes. I am concerned about how best we can handle this situation.

I welcome the concept of producer responsibility, which puts the onus on all of us, particularly industry, to take responsibility for an article from the time it is produced, through its distribution and retail stages, until the end of its life. Throughout this chain we all have a responsibility to do the best we can to reduce and find ways of recycling waste.

The REPAK scheme involves packaging; industry is, rightly, being asked to take responsibility for this. Unless there are strict guidelines under which companies must find ways of reducing waste, some will do so and others will not. The Bill needs to be stricter in this regard. In each industry there should be an employee who is solely responsible for dealing with this aspect of packaging. Any industry which produces a major packaging product should allocate somebody solely to that project. There should not be a haphazard system involving only spot checks by REPAK. I welcome placing responsibility on producers, but how will this work on the ground?

I am familiar with other recycling schemes which work reasonably well. Kerbside Dublin operates south of the Liffey in conjunction with Dublin Corporation and the three Dublin county councils. There is the Green Cone scheme and the new composting scheme, which is involved in the disposal of domestic waste. Housewives can dispose of 30 per cent of household waste through the composting scheme but it is not well known by the public and will not be so unless we inform them of it.

I congratulate local authorities on their projects. Local authorities have travelling roadshows telling people what is happening in their areas and they have introduced various environmental projects in schools, but this is not enough. I do not know where we are going wrong but information about bottle banks and recycling items like plastic and packaging is not getting to households or schools. Indeed, few will remember what I said after I leave this Chamber. Every time I make a statement on the issue, I call for help in reaching out to the public because the message is not getting through.

This Bill contains good ideas but how will we implement them? There will be a huge cost involved. I spoke to South Dublin County Council about this matter and it seems it will cost an astronomical amount to introduce any worthwhile waste management plan. The ESRI report of November 1995 estimated it would cost around £250 million. We must start small and acknowledge that for the foreseeable future, we will only be able to recycle 30 per cent of our waste while the rest will have to be sent to landfill sites.

We have problems finding suitable new landfill sites, educating the public and acknowledging that they will not accept these sites in their present form because of experience. We have a huge role to play. Will we call on local authorities to take total control of educating the public or will it come from another source? There is a two pronged role for us to play. While local authorities have full responsibility for the matter, they do not have the resources. They can only talk about solving the problem and produce this plan at environmental meetings. We can have worthwhile discussions about the provisions in this Bill but at the end of the day, we will have to tell people at residents meetings that 70 per cent of our waste will have to be dumped in landfill sites, which they will not agree to have in their locality. There must be an intensive education programme before we go any further. There is no worthwhile education programme at the moment; the information is not reaching the public. I have concerns about the implementation of this Bill. It contains worthwhile ideas and it is now time to upgrade our legislation. However, we must do all we can to recycle domestic waste; we are not emphasising that key area.

I welcome the introduction of the producer responsibility provision but how will we implement it? Maybe such a mechanism already exists and, if so, can the Minister explain it to me? How will we educate all levels of industry and reduce the amount of wastage in packaging? It can be done. For example, there must be other ways of packaging corn flakes without covering the boxes in monstrous advertisements.

If we take that approach, up to 50 per cent of our waste can be recycled. A new education programme is needed. Parents and residents associations need to be educated through in-service courses and local seminars. Last week I attended a conference in Limerick organised by the General Council of County Councils. We do not have enough of these conferences. If we are to implement these ideas, we need more of them. My contribution will be forgotten as soon as I walk out of this Chamber. The Minister has an obligation to provide the resources to educate the public in how best to increase the percentage of waste being recycled, which will reduce the demand for landfill sites. It is possible to dispose of most waste locally by recycling but people do not know enough about it.

I welcome the introduction of the Waste Management Bill. It is important legislation. Waste management will be one of the major problems we will face in the future.

I am a member of a local authority — most speakers will have that experience. Most local authorities are in a difficult position with regard to providing landfill sites and the emphasis on waste management. For example, Leitrim County Council is proposing to set up a central dump facility within the county and a number of possible locations have been picked. Naturally everybody living close to those proposed locations are against the dumps in their area. Tonight I will be attending a public meeting in Geevagh concerning the provision of a central dumping facility by Sligo County Council and local people are objecting to it.

I do not know if central dumping landfill sites will solve the problem. We need a place to put our domestic and industrial refuse. Local authorities provided a landfill site and a dumping facility for every large town but most of them have closed down because they are either full or did not meet proper local or EU requirements.

I live close to County Fermanagh. Its county council has examined landfill and waste management over the last few years. While it has provided a central landfill site, in every other town it constructed a concrete area surrounded by seven foot high walls and a dumper, which is collected every second day. That may be expensive but it has stopped illegal dumping. The dump in my locality was closed three years ago and we have a serious problem with illegal dumping. One cannot take a facility out of an area and then expect people to drive 20 miles to bring their waste to the central dump. Senator Ormonde said education is important but so also is reality. While local authorities will make the decisions about providing central dumps, the Department of the Environment could also look into the matter but it will not solve the problem of illegal dumping. The other aspect of the Bill is the cost to local authorities and the amount of money available to run these facilities, which is decreasing rather than increasing. That will have a major effect on the decisions any authority will take on the waste management plan.

The other issue I would like to raise is that of plastic bags. As a retailer I can see the convenience of plastic bags, but in the debate on flooding in County Galway we were told that surveys had been carried out and the major cause of flooding was that plastic fertiliser bags and other plastic bags were blocking small inlets. Plastic bags have caused major flooding problems over the years. They do not disintegrate over time so, without saying that they should be banned, they should be taken out of commission over a period of time. When I lived in the United States most supermarkets provided big paper bags for their customers' groceries, but that has changed too because of the cost to retail outlets of providing paper rather than plastic. Plastic is much more competitive and cheaper to provide by retail outlets. This should also be taken into consideration when the details of the Waste Management Bill are being put in place.

I welcome the Bill. It is time to face up to this issue. Waste management is one of the great problems facing us in the 21st century. I hope that when we have it put in place we will have taken all situations into account; that it will be very worthwhile and will make people more aware of the whole issue of domestic and industrial waste, that the facilities put in place will last and that they will add to the environment rather than take from it, as has happened heretofore.

I am glad of the opportunity to discuss this Bill, which the Progressive Democrats warmly welcome. A number of my colleagues and I were recently at a conference organised by the General Council of County Councils, and the Waste Management Bill was the main topic of discussion for the day. It was very interesting, very well attended and of great interest to all of us.

One of our main concerns is the amount of waste that we are producing. This is due to quadruple over the next ten years, which is very frightening when one thinks of the amount of waste currently being produced here. One of the main issues we must address is the reduction of waste. We are currently producing large amounts of waste and we feel that somebody else will take care of it. We as individuals do not look at what we can do to address the problem. Most of the waste we produce is put into landfill sites. Over the long term we will have to address this issue very seriously. We need to examine the minimisation of waste, recycling, treatment and to view disposal of waste as a last option. We owe it to future generations to make progress in this area and that is why I welcome the Bill here today; we are beginning to address this issue.

We must also realise the cost implications of this Bill. The public will demand the highest possible standards for the disposal of waste; we need both legislation and resources. The EU directive on waste disposal will come into operation later this year and then we will have to introduce legislation to give effect to that in our own law. All existing landfill sites will have to meet stringent requirements under this legislation and if they do not, many of the landfill sites in operation at present will have to close. This has huge implications, including cost implications, for local authorities. We have seen the problems encountered in relation to site selections. Local authorities must involve themselves in dialogue with interested parties, such as residents associations and organisations like An Taisce.

As individuals we must look at how much waste we are producing, how much it costs and where it is going. Only by reducing the amount of waste and reducing the current rampant consumerism can we address this problem. Each of us must accept the fact that we are a polluter. We must accept the responsibility and the cost of waste disposal. Other countries are much more advanced in this area than we are. In the past the Department of the Environment has given support in the way of grants to people setting up recycling facilities. Many of those concerns have folded. They have not been successful because the day to day running costs of these recycling centres have proved to be prohibitive. If the Department is to assist people in setting up these facilities, support for the actual cost of running these facilities will have to be considered.

I welcome this Bill. It is very good to discuss this issue. Another important issue was raised this morning on the Order of Business when we talked about the new litter proposals the Minister for the Environment announced in the last few days. This is a problem we could examine when we are looking at the larger waste issue. It is imperative that we protect our environment and maintain our clean green image. The economic arguments for doing so were very strongly put in the Culliton report:

Far from dragging our heels in the international movement for environmental protection, it would be in our best interest, even from the industrial standpoint, to seek out opportunities for advancing ahead of other countries in the interest of promoting our clean green image and in positioning Irish industry for coping with even tougher legislation in the face of what seems to be an unstoppable trend.

Culliton went on to say that "the development and application of environmentally friendly technologies and products offer notable opportunities for job creation". In other words, environmental protection is no longer a matter of choice or an optional extra to be left to a discerning section of the public, but a matter of survival. By facing up to this issue, by putting in place and maintaining the highest possible environmental standards, Ireland will not alone create new jobs but also maintain existing jobs. Tourism is another environmentally dependent industry and it is a key industry in relation to the generation and maintaining of jobs in this country. Over 300,000 people are unemployed; we must make every effort to advance and maintain the highest attainable environmental standards at every level if we are to provide jobs.

To date, our law in this area was mainly concerned with solid waste and waste disposal. We have to examine the whole issue of minimisation, reduction and recycling of waste. We have to take responsibility for our own waste. We have to pay the price of disposing of our waste, and when we come to realise that we will begin to address the issue. I welcome fact that this is now going through this House. My party supports the Bill. A number of welcome amendments were made in the other House. It has serious implications in terms of resources, but we address the issue nonetheless. I welcome the Bill and fully support it.

I will not spend too much time on this Bill. I welcome it, as most people who have spoken on it have done. The Bill will address a problem that has been with us for many years. The Bill is long on aspiration but short on means of finance and, unfortunately, responsibility for financing its provisions will fall on local authorities, which are strapped for cash. The amount of money local authorities receive is reducing in real terms and has been doing so in recent years. However, at the same time the demands placed on them to provide services are increasing.

It is good the Bill is being discussed in the week in which the Minister for the Environment published proposals on the problems associated with litter throughout the country. However, the information on the new litter plan was printed on glossy multicoloured paper which is non-recyclable and increases pollution. The message would get across just as well if it had been printed on ordinary paper rather than on glossy paper.

The Department is issuing an increasing number of documents printed on this type of paper which cannot be composted. I do not understand why the Department of the Environment, given that it talks about decreasing the problems of litter and refuse, continues to churn out the greatest load of rubbish from PR companies in terms of non-recyclable paper. I ask the Minister to ensure that when the Department is issuing information on matters pertaining to the environment in the future, it is at least cognisant that pollution will be increased if the notices are not sent out on recycled paper or ordinary paper which can be easily recycled.

One of the major problems associated with waste management is that education in civics classes in schools on how to dispose of waste and how household waste can be managed has not been provided. A pilot scheme in the Kilkenny County Council area was conducted four years ago under which compost bins of various styles were sold to people at cost. The selling aspect was managed by the council and each county councillor received some bins. I have used a compost bin in my home for the last four years and, with the exception of plastic, all foodstuffs and other household waste can be recycled by placing it in the bin. If garden waste, such as grass and weeds, is kept in a compost heap, it can be reused in the garden. The bulk of the heap reduces rather than increases over the years, even if one never uses it, as it composts itself.

A huge amount of this type of material is going to county council tips and creating an ever increasing problem for local authorities in terms of refuse management. State of the art disposal plants or dumps which must be used at present are extremely expensive to produce. The waste facility in Kilkenny, which was established in 1989, was the first to meet EU standards at that time. However, the capital cost of producing that facility and increasing the number of pits and the ongoing costs are extremely high. Environmental standards must be maintained and we must ensure that waste is managed. However, this can only be done if the Department of Education, in conjunction with the Departments of Finance and the Environment, attempts to ensure that people realise what they are doing if they do not separate waste which can be disposed of by composting or recycling.

As Senator Honan said, a number of small firms have been established around the country which recycle various materials. They may have received minimal grants at the beginning in terms of employing people on FÁS schemes. Such schemes only last a certain length of time and the small ongoing running costs should be provided or subsidised by the Department of the Environment. The minimum amount of money put into such projects would provide the maximum benefit in terms of recycling and minimise the amount of waste which must go through the official system.

There are problems throughout the country regarding how to deal with waste, the biggest of which is trying to ensure people pay the economic price for its collection and disposal. Some places have wheelie bins while others have tag-a-bag. There are various ways of trying to collect money, but in general they do not work. For example, what does one do if a tag is not placed on the bag? Does one leave the bag and let the dogs dispose of it? The people on the disposal trucks take the bags regardless of whether a tag has been placed on it. This is reasonable except for the fact that it means some people pay for the service while others do not pay for it.

The message has not yet got across that if one pays water or services charges of any description, the amount can be deducted from one's tax at the 27 per cent rate at present. However, the people who shout most about the cost of tag-a-bag are those who do not pay. Such people attend every public meeting and complain about the cost of waste disposal, tags and wheelie bins. However, if one analyses those shouting most at such public meetings, one finds they are the same people who do not and will not pay for the service. They stand up and complain about the cost but they do not pay it. Something must be done about this aspect, although I do not know the solution to it. There are ways and means of forcing people in public housing schemes to pay. For example, local authorities will not repair houses if charges are not up to date. However, this only works in certain areas and this matter should also be examined.

The biggest issues to be faced are waste prevention, minimising waste and educating people on how best to dispose of it. I listened to other speakers and a major problem is where to locate a new waste disposal unit. It is similar to the issue of itinerants. Everybody wants the itinerants settled but not next door to them. The problems of waste and itinerants will not go away. People criticise the Government for not making provision for the itinerants. However, when a decision is made to locate a site for itinerants in a specific area, the same people who say housing and services must be provided for them say they cannot be placed next door to them. The same applies to waste management.

Under the current regulations, waste disposal units do not have the same impact on places as they did in the past, even for those living close to them. Previously, birds and every type of vermin were floating around. However, if a waste management plant is well managed and covering up is carried out each day, as specified under EU rules, it is environmentally reasonable even for those living next door.

I am not aware of the extent of the survey carried out in areas where mining took place. Senator Reynolds referred to County Leitrim. I do not see great problems regarding the disposal of refuse there. The Arigna mines have closed and with proper management it would not be too difficult to get the necessary material into the areas from where the coal was extracted in a way that would not harm the water tables. Similarly, there should be no great problems in County Tipperary. In north County Kilkenny we are considering worn out mines as a source of new dumping.

Will the Minister provide a comprehensive plan for local authorities which outlines the maximum means of educating people as to what can be recycled and composted? The Government should stop issuing rubbish — non-recyclable material which once read is dumped and cannot be composted or returned to the system. Those asking us to accept the Bill are among the biggest polluters in the country.

The Minister should be aware that there are problems associated with the financing of the Bill. Local authorities are under extreme pressure in many areas to provide the necessary services. They should be helped to minimise the effects of the Bill by trying to educate the public as to the best methods of disposal — recycling, recomposting and better use of plastic — in a way that does not put an end to the local authority system.

Many newsagents put newspapers for customers into plastic bags, and in some shops employees are told to pack everything in such bags. This is symptomatic of a lack of education in this area. It would be a good day's work in the short term if the management of the small number of supermarket chains were given lessons in how best to minimise the production of waste that cannot be disposed of. I welcome the Bill.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I also congratulate Senator Hayes; I hope he will have many opportunities to deal with all kinds of legislation in both Houses in the future.

This Bill deals with an important and emotive topic. Local authorities face huge difficulties opening and closing landfill sites. It is an incredible problem and has different aspects throughout the country. The problems in County Monaghan are different from those experienced elsewhere. Approximately three or four years ago we commissioned a report from Teagasc which was presented to us after approximately 12 months of intensive study of our problems regarding waste control. Following the report's recommendations the local authority would have preferred not to grant planning permission for anything to do with intensive culture of any kind leading to the production of waste. However, one cannot stop the march of industrial development; planning has proceeded, the problem has become worse and we are now looking for ways to deal with it.

Many people are submitting ideas on how to turn waste into money, such as the production of electricity, but nothing of significance has happened. We have problems with chicken litter and mushroom composts. Driving through County Monaghan one sees little black plastic mushroom huts everywhere, while driving along the minor roads one also sees plastic bags filled with mushroom compost dumped everywhere. We have no way of handling or controlling this waste. It is a terrible eyesore and probably a terrible waste of resources.

According to my research, it is possible to have an economic project built in County Monaghan producing electricity which would control this waste. To ascertain the feasibility of this proposal we need to visit a factory in England, Fibropower, built two or three years ago, which uses poultry litter exclusively to produce electricity. The company is profitable. It was given a premium price per unit of electricity for the first five years to help it repay its high capital costs, approximately £25 million, as it was the first factory of its kind and new technology had to be developed to handle the waste. The company then commenced production. It is now producing enough electricity from the use of chicken waste to service a town with 12,500 houses.

We have a proposal in County Monaghan for a similar kind of operation to be undertaken in co-operation with this company. The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Stagg, is considering the matter and I hope he will be able to give it the green light because we would then be able to mop up the incredible amount of waste, running into huge tonnage, putting it to good economic use.

My recent information from the operation in England is that, at the end of the five year period, it will have repaid enough of its initial borrowings to be viable. The company believes it will be able to compete in an open market in the future without any difficulty, even though it collects its waste from all over England which entails a cost factor. As production in County Monaghan is very intensive, the cost of waste collection would be cheap, thereby making such a plant even more successful.

I have received many other proposals to deal with mushroom compost and to turn our excess waste into small economic units. However, the will to support people involved in these proposals is not there. We must try to turn matters around and make a commitment to support those making efforts to make money out of waste. I ask the Minister to take note of this. Perhaps he would communicate with his colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Stagg, and support the proposals that are being made.

The problem in Monaghan is incredibly bad because as well as intensive production of mushrooms, eggs, chickens and turkeys, farm size is small relative to the rest of the country so there is also grass management. Members can imagine the effect this has on the quality of water in the area — we have a huge problem maintaining standards for drinking water, etc. We will inevitably lose this battle unless something major can be done to help.

I hope my words in the House will lead to a new commitment to assist us. It is a local problem and it is difficult to get those responsible for national policy to pay as much attention to it as we would like and deserve, so we must continue to bring it to people's attention at every opportunity. If we could achieve that, the people of Monaghan, who are disadvantaged in many ways because of their Border location and traditional developments in those counties, would be given a new lease of life and an opportunity to move ahead and employ our people as we did in the past. We are in a bottleneck at present. If the planning authority made decisions on the basis of the reports it has received, it would be entitled to prevent all development in Monaghan other than private housing.

I am glad this Bill is before the House because this subject should be aired from time to time. Views should be expressed and attitudes on controlling waste must be changed, as it will be an even bigger problem in the future than it is now. There will be a growth in the amount of waste handled and we must be control it in enlightened fashion.

We are not good at recycling; a factor which contributes to that is our scattered population, as it is less economic to recycle in low population areas than in cities. Ordinary recycling initiatives which operate successfully in Europe run into trouble in rural Ireland. The collection of paper and glass in small towns and scattered rural areas is not an economic proposition and cannot be carried out successfully unless support is offered. Members will know private individuals in their areas involved in recycling; they find it hard to make enough money to justify continuing their operation. If this remains the case, recycling will fall back on local authorities and it will be costly for them to collect recyclable waste.

We are all aware of the major problems and the Bill will give a new impetus to dealing with them. I welcome and support it and look forward to further exchanges on it as it goes through the House.

Any measure aimed at enhancing and protecting the environment is to be welcomed and in that context I welcome the Waste Management Bill. I have, however, some reservations about certain aspects of it and shall outline these during the course of my contribution. The purpose of the legislation is to provide a modern and comprehensive legislative framework for the prevention, management and control of waste and these are matters which must be seriously and urgently addressed if we are in earnest about dealing with this ever increasing problem.

The amount of waste generated is growing all the time and the nature of much of it is changing. In his Second Stage contribution the Minister provided some alarming statistics. The OECD area generated some nine billion tonnes of waste in 1990, including more than 300 million tonnes of hazardous waste; the OECD area comprises the world's most developed countries. Waste production in the EU increased by 13 per cent between 1987 and 1992. In Ireland we now generate an estimated nine million tonnes of municipal and industrial waste, in addition to even larger quantities of agricultural and other waste. We were told that in 1994, expenditure on waste management by local authorities alone exceeded £65 million.

Ireland's waste problems are no different from those of most developed countries or EU member states but, as Senators have said, we are some way behind most of our European neighbours in dealing with them. In all countries, as the volume of waste increases, so too does the risk or threat to the environment. Waste materials can contaminate soil and pollute ground and surface water as well as causing harmful air emissions such as methane gas. In this country existing arrangements for waste disposal are by and large defective, in some cases seriously so. The vast bulk of non-hazardous solid waste is disposed of in landfill sites, many of which are unsuitable. Whether we like it or not, landfill will continue to be the principal method for disposing of such waste for the foreseeable future. In recent years a small number of high-specification landfill sites have been developed, but many of the existing landfills in use are badly located and have been poorly managed. Thankfully, the position is not as bad as it was and there has been a significant improvement in the standard of maintenance of most local authority landfill sites or tipheads.

However, the experience of those sites over the years has given rise to a serious problem, adverted to by other speakers, considerable public opposition is now inevitable whenever there is a proposal for the development of a new landfill site. This is creating difficulty for a number of local authorities and will continue to do so in the future. How this difficulty can be overcome remains to be seen, but it must be surmounted if we are to move speedily into a new era of more environmentally friendly landfill disposal.

The Minister referred to the principle of shared responsibility, meaning that every community and individual has a responsibility for the environment. This message must be hammered home at every opportunity; it is equally relevant to young and old and to urban and rural dwellers. On a daily basis, individuals exercise choices which have implications one way or the other for the environment. The aim must be to ensure that environmental concern is reflected in all the choices we make as individuals or communities.

The Minister also referred to EU legislation and policy and I agree with his outline of the priorities on which our waste policy must be based. We must aim at increasing public support for waste prevention where this is possible, waste minimisation where prevention is not possible and increased reuse and recycling. We must aim at the very highest standards in the disposal of waste which cannot be otherwise dealt with.

In his speech the Minister described the Bill as "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". The Bill establishes fundamental principles. However, the specific measures, obligations and procedures provided for in the Bill will, in the main, be implemented by way of a series of ministerial orders, directions and regulations. This brings me to my first serious reservation about the Bill.

There are 70 sections in the Bill but under at least half of them the Minister is empowered to make regulations and orders, to provide by way of regulations, to give directions, to take such measures as seem appropriate to him or her and so on. For example, subsection (1) of section 7 states:

The Minister may make regulations prescribing any matter or thing which is referred to in this Act as prescribed or to be prescribed or for the purpose of enabling any provision of this Act to have full effect.

Section 7(2) states:

Regulations made under this Act may make different provisions in relation to different areas, different circumstances, different classes of persons or waste and different waste management or other activities.

I am afraid that we will finish up with an Act consisting of 70 sections, five Schedules and a raft of ministerial orders, regulations and directions. I would be much happier with more focused primary legislation and far less secondary legislation in the form of orders, regulations and so on. There is a definite danger that this Act will become a gravy train for lawyers and consultants, a financial and administrative nightmare for local authorities and a legislative Frankenstein for business and industry. The whole maze of legislation, orders, regulations and directions will become so convoluted that sight will be lost of the primary objective — the prevention, management and control of waste. That is my greatest single reservation about this Bill.

My second major reservation is in regard to the plethora of responsibilities which it will place on local authorities. Has anybody given serious consideration to the cost implications or the financial impact of the implementation of the legislation on local authorities? The majority of local authorities have serious financial problems and I wonder where the resources will come from to enable them to carry out the functions assigned to them under this legislation. Local authorities will be responsible for ensuring adequate waste collection and disposal arrangements in their areas. They will also be responsible for supervising the holding or recovery of waste, the preparation of waste management plans, the making and implementation of by-laws, the authorisation of commercial waste activities and the control of waste movement. In relation to hazardous waste, each local authority will be obliged to have regard to the national hazardous waste disposal plan in dealing with hazardous waste originating in its own area.

During the course of his speech the Minister referred to the Litter Act, 1982, and signalled his intention to introduce new legislation on litter. I welcome the Minister's commitment in this regard, but the main reason for the 1982 Act failing to deal with the problem of litter was that local authorities did not have the resources to properly implement and enforce its provisions. The same difficulties will arise in relation to the Waste Management Bill when it is enacted as far as the majority of local authorities are concerned. They will not have, will not receive or will be unable to provide the level of resourcing required for the proper implementation and enforcement of this legislation.

The Bill is also deficient in a number of other respects. For example, it does not address the question of incineration as a disposal option. This is a serious shortcoming or omission in the Bill. A proper incineration policy incorporating the latest technology could not alone play a major role in dealing with a substantial percentage of particular types of waste, but could also make a significant contribution in the energy area. The Bill is also very short on specifics as far as the disposal of hospital and hazardous waste in concerned. I understand that most hazardous waste is currently exported for disposal. This situation cannot continue indefinitely and the issue should be faced up to sooner rather than later.

The Bill does not address realistically the question of agricultural and farm waste. The suspension last year of the control of farmyard pollution scheme was, as has been said on many occasions, a most retrograde decision. I hope the scheme will be reinstated at the earliest possible opportunity. The restoration of the control of the farmyard pollution scheme, coupled with the worthwhile measures taken under the rural environmental protection scheme, could play a major role in underpinning rural Ireland's clean, green image.

While I have raised certain concerns in relation to this Bill, I sincerely hope the Minister can allay my fears in regard to these points. In common with every other Member, the more successful this Bill is in safeguarding and enhancing the environment, the happier I will be. We all have a responsibility in these areas and a duty to ensure that we are successful in tackling the problems.

I thank the Senators who participated in this very useful debate and I welcome the many positive comments in relation to the Bill. The many contributions clearly demonstrate the support which exists for higher standards and better practice in relation to waste management. It would be difficult for me to reply in detail to all of the points raised by the many Senators who spoke on the Bill. I will respond to some of these points but I would like mainly to make some general comments and leave matters of detail to be dealt with on Committee Stage when they can be considered more fully.

In relation to policy concepts, a fundamental necessity for good waste management in modern times is an acceptance of an appropriate degree of responsibility by all sectors of society. The Bill reflects this concept of shared responsibility. It supports the hierarchy of waste management which establishes waste prevention as the first preferred option. It provides for extensive measures to support the minimisation and recovery of waste, as well as new control system to ensure that high environmental standards apply in relation to the recovery and disposal of waste. It reflects the established need to ensure that primary responsibility for waste lies with the producer or holder of the waste. It also supports the related need to give practical expression to the principle of the polluter pays.

Waste is no longer seen as an acceptable and avoidable consequence of economic development. Increasingly, waste is being recognised as a pollutant which has the potential to inflict unsustainable demands on the environment and which requires active management to control its impact. Waste management policy, therefore, in modern times is based on these concepts.

I apologise for interrupting, but it was agreed on the Order of Business that there would be a sos between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

The challenge we face as legislators and public representatives is to put in place the necessary legal and planning framework and to mobilise the public support which is needed for the achievement of waste management objectives. We must influence the public to exercise personal responsibility and personal choices in favour of more effective waste management and recovery. We must deal with the legacy of poor waste disposal practices and satisfy the clear public demand for high standards in relation to waste disposal. This requires meaningful public involvement in waste management planning. The Bill addresses this requirement by providing for public consultation before plans are formally drafted, as well as the more usual provision for public comment on drafted plans.

The Bill contains wide ranging powers which would enable the Government and relevant environmental authorities to secure our recycling objectives using a traditional command and control approach. However, the Government has indicated its preference in the first instance for shared responsibility on a voluntary basis. This was the basis for the establishment, for example, of the new organisation, REPAK, which will be run and financed by industry to co-ordinate and finance the collection and recycling of packaging waste. I welcome the support which Senators have expressed for this kind of voluntary arrangement between Government and industry. I hope REPAK will be the forerunner of other co-operative measures for the benefit of the environment.

However, I readily take the point about the need to deal with businesses which decline to accept their share of responsibility. We propose to follow the dictum — speak softly, but carry a big stick. I hope that the stick can remain in the background but again I wish to state that "free riders" may be assured of my ready willingness to use it as soon as the need becomes apparent.

The Bill is in many respects framework legislation which will provide the necessary powers to apply and adapt appropriate measures in the face of changing environmental, economic and technical conditions. Of necessity, therefore, it contains many powers to make regulations to deal with particular needs. Waste is probably the most complex area of environmental management and the governing legislation must be flexible enough to allow us to deal with changing circumstances and specific problems and requirements as they emerge.

Many speakers referred to the cost implications which will arise from higher standards of waste management. My first response must be that these higher standards are not optional; they are necessary and unavoidable for responsible environmental management. We are not blazing a new trail as environmental zealots. We are only doing what is already being done in other responsible countries, as was mentioned by Senator Quinn.

I believe there is an exaggerated perception of the increased costs involved. For example, in 1994 some householders were already paying annual charges of up to £70 for waste collection and disposal. The recent ESRI report on waste management indicated that charges of this order would be generally sufficient to meet the costs involved. The present position, however, is that some 40 per cent of households pay no fee at all for waste collection and disposal.

Experience in the industrial and commercial sector has almost invariably shown that considerable savings can be achieved by greater attention to waste management. Many businesses are simply unaware of the high costs which they are needlessly incurring due to inadequate waste management. The Government has announced already that financial support will be made available in relation to expenditure on waste planning strategy studies, the provision of recycling infrastructure and the provision of specialised facilities for the treatment of hazardous wastes. Grants to a value of £18.5 million for these purposes will be co-financed by the European Union.

Government support will not generally be provided for waste disposal activities. Waste disposal has traditionally been financed from local sources. The introduction of support from central funds for waste disposal at the present time would be inconsistent with the direction in which waste management policy has developed in recent decades. It would be inconsistent with the polluter pays principle which generally requires that waste disposal costs be borne by the producers and holders of waste rather than from public funds. The challenge for local authorities is to devise the appropriate arrangements to give effect to this principle in their own areas. This is an extremely important issue. It is a very unsatisfactory feature of present arrangements that waste disposal facilities are available at low cost, or no cost, to many waste producers.

If local authorities are to meet this challenge, they must take a fresh, hard look at all available options. The primary role for local authorities under the Bill is as waste management planners. This means that local authorities need to review their role and adopt a much more broadly based approach to waste management for their areas. I suggest that local authorities have to address the following issues as a matter of priority.

The first is the need for more broadly based waste management strategies, on the basis of environmental and economic catchment areas — in other words, an inter-county approach in which regional authorities may have a valuable role to play. The second issue is the scope for further rationalisation of our landfill network in order to facilitate higher environmental standards and to achieve economies of scale. The phased introduction of a more realistic pricing structure for their own waste collection and disposal arrangements is desirable. The final issue is the potential role of a developing and well regulated private sector waste industry. The Government will support local authorities in every appropriate way in the pursuit of these objectives.

I congratulate Senator Hayes on his maiden speech on 7 February and commend him for his thoughtful contribution to the debate. Senator Hayes expressed support for the conferral of a preferential taxation status on recycling companies. This is an interesting concept which deserves to be considered in the context of the development of taxation policy to promote environmental objectives generally. However, it is a significant budgetary question and the Senator will appreciate that it would not be possible to provide for taxation measures in this Bill.

I hope I covered the main points raised. I said my response to Second Stage would be of a general nature but there are one or two other points to which I will refer. Senator Kiely stated that "agricultural waste is not deemed worthy of consideration", and other Senators were also under the impression that agricultural waste matters are not addressed in the Bill. However, the disposal of agricultural wastes is dealt with on the same basis as other waste streams.

With regard to the recovery of certain agricultural wastes, I would refer the Senator to section 51 of the Bill, which exempts such activity from integrated licensing under Part V of the Bill and sets out the scope of alternative regulatory controls which may be imposed. I intend to table an amendment to this Bill on Committee Stage incorporating provisions in the Water Pollution Act, 1977, dealing with nutrient management planning on farms.

I can assure the Seanad that this legislation will not be left on the shelf awaiting implementation. I expect, for instance, that implementation of the licensing and planning functions provided for in this Bill will commence within a matter of months after the Bill's enactment. Section 1 explicitly provides that all provisions of the Act will commence within two years of its enactment.

I thank Senators who participated in this debate. Many positive and relevant issues have been raised which will be dealt with in more detail on Committee Stage.

I would like to get clarification arising from what the Minister said.

A very brief question.

In his reply, the Minister of State indicated that a full consultation process was in place and that he had provided for that in the legislation.

I respectfully suggest that this would be more appropriate on Committee Stage. We are drifting onto dangerous ground.

I wanted to clarify this, if possible, to avoid tabling extensive amendments on Committee Stage.

It is out of order.

It is still not clear from the Minister's reply whether the process of consultation applies to making plans. If the Minister of State can clear that up it will save pages of amendments from being tabled.

If the Minister is willing to reply it will not be taken as a precedent.

This Bill has gone through the Dáil where it was the subject of much scrutiny on Committee Stage. The points raised by Senators will be taken as constructive criticism and will be considered in the production of the Bill on Committee Stage.

It is unusual to take questions after the Minister replies.

Mine were necessary.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Next Wednesday, subject to agreement with the Whips.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 21 February 1996.

When is it proposed to sit again?

On Tuesday at 2.30 p.m.