Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011: Committee and Remaining Stages

Sections 1 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 10, before section 9, but in Part 3, to insert the following new section:

"9.—Section 12(1) of the Act of 1987 is amended—

(a) in paragraph (a) by substituting—

(i) "€8,000" for "£1,000" in both places where it occurs, and

(ii) "€800" for "£100",

and

(b) in paragraph (b) by substituting—

(i) "€800,000" for "£10,000", and

(ii) "€8,000" for "£1,000".".

Although Sinn Féin welcomes the proposed changes to the fines, we believe there should be a significant penalty for causing air pollution, particularly if it involves a corporate scenario where a factory is causing such pollution. That is an important issue in the context of food production. Now that agriculture has again taken centre stage, we need strict and rigorous laws to deal with pollution. We need certainty and clarity in this area.

My colleague, Deputy Stanley, highlighted in the Dáil the potential risks air pollution poses for farmers and their lands. The fines we put in place must be capable of providing a serious deterrent. We considered the deterrent nature of the fines proposed was not sufficiently strong in a corporate scenario and we proposed this amendment for that to be taken on board and to ensure companies take this issue more seriously.

The amendment proposes that the monetary amounts of fines for penalties under the Air Pollution Act be further increased beyond the significant increases that I have already announced. Paragraph (a) refers to fines on summary conviction and proposes that a larger increase than that proposed by the Government be introduced. This is not necessary as I propose to align them with the 2010 Fines Act, which will allow them to be updated centrally to ensure they remain effective. This will allow the Minister for Justice and Equality to revise them on a regular basis, if necessary.

There are bands and categories associated with the fines under that Act, which came into force on 4 January 2011. Class A is a maximum fine of €5,000, class B is a maximum fine of €4,000, class C is a maximum fine of €2,500, class D a maximum fine of €1,000 and class E a maximum fine of €500. The improved system of fines is a more practical way of dealing with the issue centrally by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Paragraph (b) refers to the fine for conviction on indictment and proposes a larger increase than what I propose. It proposes an increase of €800,000 from £10,000 with a proportionate increase in the daily fine for a continuing offence to €8,000 rather than €5,000. The increase I propose from £10,000 to €500,000 has been selected to ensure consistency with comparable amounts in all environmental legislation. Therefore I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 2a are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 10, before section 9, but in Part 3, to insert the following new section:

"9.—For the purposes of clarity, the offences regarding sealing and labelling of fuel bags as set out in the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) Regulations 1998 (S.I. No. 118 of 1998), and Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) (Amendment) Regulations 2011(S.I. No. 270 of 2011) shall not include domestic sale of firewood, turf and peat.".

The Minister alluded to this matter this morning. This amendment seeks to remove from provisions regarding fuel bags set out in the Act the sale of firewood, turf and peat.

Like the Government parties, we want the labelling and sealing of bags of solid fuel to be regulated in order that smokeless fuels are used in smokeless zones. Customers should not be able to erroneously buy smoky fuel because it has been labelled as smokeless. There must be labelling of anthracite, coal and fossil fuels of that type but it is not necessary to seal these bags because customers in a fuel depot can recognise if the contents are firewood or ordinary peat, or turf as it is called in the country. With regard to turf or wood we feel it is important that the amendment be included.

The Minister clarified the position in his response on Second Stage. Our concern was that turf, peat and sticks, which are primarily used in country areas, would be subject to the levy. As the Minister clarified the position, I am happy not to move the amendment.

The amendment proposes to insert in section 9 a new provision regarding the sealing and labelling requirements for fuel bags under fuel regulations. As I stated this morning, turf and timber are exempt from the regulations. In section 10, the ban on the sale and marketing of certain fuels in restricted areas applies to coal with a gross calorific value of less than 24 megajoules — bituminous coal — and any unit of solid fuel with a sulphur content greater than 2%. Therefore, as turf and wood have a sulphur content much lower than 2%, there is no restriction on these fuels being sold in restricted areas. Labelling requirements are to aid the enforcement activities of authorised officers. Authorised officers do not target turf or wood and as such, the amendment is not required.

I welcome the Minister's clarification.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 9 agreed to.
Amendment No. 2a not moved.
Section 10 agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.
SECTION 12

Amendments Nos. 3 and 3a are related and alternate to each other. They will be discussed together. If amendment No. 3 is agreed to, amendment No. 3a cannot be moved.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 12, to delete lines 30 to 33 and substitute the following:

""(3) The amount of the levy shall be specified in the regulations undersubsection (2) but shall not exceed an amount of 26 cent for each plastic bag supplied to a customer.”.

We discussed the matter this morning. The plastic bag levy was a great levy. Before its introduction — it seems like not so long ago — every hedgerow in the country had plastic bags and we were all doing the glan suas once or twice a year to clean up our local areas. We propose that the amount allowed in the legislation be reduced from 70 cent as that is too high. Currently the charge is 22 cent and it works reasonably well. This levy will hit those on low incomes and as we heard this morning, another tax has been added for people to pay, with a €100 household levy to be imposed. I appreciate the Minister's indication that currently it is not his plan to raise the levy to 70 cent but we do not have any guarantee that it would not happen in the near future. This is unfair, especially as there seems to be very little in the legislation that brings in manufacturers, wholesalers and the pollution they produce. That should also be addressed.

The plastic bag levy has been progressive and it may be introduced in the other part of the island. It is a good measure that has reduced waste, which we appreciate. We support the levy in principle but we are committed to robust environmental protection. That necessarily involves the use of legislation that challenges attitudes and the practices of businesses and consumers alike while promoting behavioural change. The change proposed to the plastic bag levy focuses too much on consumers, and it will hit low income households to a greater extent. We must see similar approaches for manufacturers and businesses to encourage them to act accordingly.

We will press our amendment. We agree with the Minister that the plastic bag levy is important and it is a significant environmental provision. It is a pillar in trying to bring about the results which have been evident in recent years. It was noted on Second Stage that we do not see as many plastic bags hurled into ditches and dumped because people are more cautious when they are paying for the plastic bag. Many people continue to pay for the plastic bag, as is evidenced by the fact that the levy took in €22.5 million in 2007.

The levy, introduced by the Minister then responsible for the environment, former Deputy Noel Dempsey, was progressive and widely welcomed. The Minister may look to extend the scope of the levy up to 70 cent over time, and the legislation would allow the Minister to act without coming back to the House. We could not stand over including this scope in the legislation because households are now being burdened extensively. The €100 household charge announced this afternoon, effective from next January, is further proof of that.

Although the householder or shopper should try, as much as possible, to move away from using the plastic bag, it is in some instances a necessity when there is no option to bring one's own bags or boxes to a store. We will press the amendment as we could only live with a levy with a ceiling of approximately 25 cent per plastic bag. The 70 cent ceiling leaves the possibility of hitting those vulnerable shoppers who are experiencing enough difficulty in purchasing necessary groceries on a weekly basis without having to pay additionally for plastic bags.

The current levy of 22 cent per bag is reaping rewards for the consumer but as I noted on Second Stage, the Government and the Department should look to an alternative to plastic bags in supermarkets. Perhaps work could be done with supermarkets on a national level to find an alternative, such as paper bags. Other choices could be more environmentally friendly, and recycled paper could be used for making paper bags. Such products are being rolled out in the United States, and I listened carefully to Senator Quinn's Second Stage contribution, who mentioned there is a levy on such bags in some parts of the United States. We should examine the matter to make products more environmentally friendly. We will press the amendment to set the levy ceiling at 25 cent per bag.

I agree with my colleagues, Senators Ó Domhnaill and Ó Clochartaigh. Raising the ceiling to 70 cent means this could become a stealth tax down the road and lose its current effect. The measure is currently very useful. Senator Harte indicated that the only plastic bags we come across in the ditches around my county are those from Asda and other Northern Irish shops. I welcome the Minister's discussions with his counterpart in Northern Ireland, Mr. Alex Attwood, and that plans are progressing to introduce a levy in the North. That will at least eliminate plastic bag difficulties in the three Southern counties of Ulster. I welcome the Minister's work in that regard. I agree with my colleague, Senator Ó Domhnaill, that if we were to increase the levy to 70 cent we would lose the whole idea behind it and it could become a stealth tax at some future stage.

It has been suggested that it is planned to increase the levy to 70 cent. That is not what is in this legislation. This Bill provides for an increase in recognition of the proliferation in the number of bags in ditches. In 2007, the previous Government deemed it necessary to increase the levy from 15 cent to 22 cent, just as we deem it necessary to increase the levy now. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. It is proposed to adjust the levy in line with the variations in the consumer price index. As it cannot be adjusted by more than 10% in one year, it will not increase to 70 cent. I would like to point out that all the amendments that have been tabled today were tabled in the Dáil, word for word. The actual amendments tabled by my friends in Sinn Féin are also the same, word for word. Deputy Stanley——

What happened in the Dáil is totally irrelevant to what is happening here.

I know. I am pointing out that it was good enough for——

On a point of information, we did not table any amendments in the Dáil.

No, I did not allude to the Fianna Fáil amendments. I was talking about the Sinn Féin amendments. Deputy Stanley withdrew them in the Dáil after hearing the Minister's explanation. Senator Ó Clochartaigh should confer with his colleague in the Dáil, as it might be advisable for them to get their policy in order.

The Dáil is a totally different Chamber.

With all due respect, it is a matter for——

I respect that. When we are talking about policy, I suggest that coherence in policy on the part of every party would be a good thing. I am advocating coherence in policy. If a party does not have a coherent policy, it is wasting its time. I am promoting coherence. I am not saying we need an increase to 70 cent at this stage.

The Senator's comments are inappropriate.

It is a matter for Senator Ó Clochartaigh to move any amendments he might wish in this House.

I cannot decide that for him.

I have great respect for Senator Keane, but her extraordinary statement has suggested once again that the Dáil and the Seanad are somehow two sides of the same coin. We are not. They are separate institutions.

I was talking about policy.

As the Chair has pointed out, what happens in this Chamber with regard to policy is what happens in this Chamber. What happens in some other House is what happens in some other House.

Like Senator Keane, Senator Mooney is deviating from the amendments before the House. I ask him to stick to the amendments.

Certainly. The then Minister, Dick Roche, increased the levy. If I remember rightly, he would have liked to have increased it further but the existing legislation did not permit him to do so. As I am deviating slightly from my two colleagues, Senator Keane will probably get to her feet again to say we should have uniformity of policy. Our previous experience in this regard influenced me to ask the Minister earlier whether this levy continues to be fit for purpose. If I understood him correctly, the Minister said he was reasonably satisfied the levy is working well. I wonder if it is as effective now as it was when it was introduced. Like the smoking ban, it was very effective initially. I understand the national smoking average decreased to 22% but has since increased to approximately 29%. I wonder if the use of plastic bags has increased similarly despite the levy. I appreciate that we have had a significant increase in population since the levy was first introduced. That might indicate there is now a greater usage of plastic bags.

I am a little concerned. I hope the Minister will confirm that the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is continuing to monitor the effectiveness of the levy, regardless of the price that is put on it. People get used to a particular price. I also asked a rhetorical question about whether some supermarket groups are absorbing the levy and not passing it on to the customer. I must confess I have got into the habit of not always looking at my receipt at the checkout to check whether I have been charged for a plastic bag. Like everybody else, I am human and I sometimes forget to bring a recyclable bag to the supermarket. I am left with no option but to purchase a plastic bag. I do not always look at the bill to see whether I have been charged.

The Minister might have a view on Senator Ó Clochartaigh's point about the proliferation of packaging that is used by manufacturers for the most minimal of products. This age-old problem is not unique to Ireland — it is found throughout the EU. I appreciate we cannot act unilaterally in this regard. I would be interested in the Minister's views, if any, on how we can make progress with reducing the amount of unnecessary packaging. I understand an organisation in Ireland has pledged to try to achieve such a reduction. Perhaps some initiatives are being taken to solve the problem of excessive packaging, which bothers everybody. When one buys small electrical goods like batteries, one often finds they are surrounded by about ten yards of packaging because they are supposed to be safe. It drives people to distraction. My efforts to open such packages drive me to distraction. They are a blight on the environment. Some sort of collective move should be made to reduce the amount of packaging used. Much more needs to be done.

All of us welcome the existence of the plastic bag levy. We are pleased that it is proving to be effective. I have added a caveat by expressing my concern that it might not be as effective as it was. Is the amount of money being charged continuing to act as the disincentive it was when this measure was initiated?

I would be concerned if the Minister were to increase the levy to 70 cent immediately. That does not appear to be his intention, however, on the basis of the statement he made today. It is prudent to give him the option of increasing the levy over a period of years if it is not working at the current level. I agree with other speakers that the introduction of the levy some years ago by a previous Minister was an extremely good move. It has tidied up the countryside and led to a significant improvement in our efforts to make our towns, villages and countryside much tidier and more welcoming to our visitors. I do not agree with Senator Ó Clochartaigh that a modest increase on the current 22 cent rate would impose major hardship on any family. Most families have a supply of reusable bags that they bring to shops on an ongoing basis. If the levy were to be increased by a few cent, it might give business people an opportunity to make reusable bags available as an incentive to customers to shop in their stores. Although certain opportunities would be associated with a review of the levy, I would not like the Minister to go wild and increase it to an alarming level like 70 cent. A modest increase in this small charge would counteract the loss of impact of the current 22 cent level, which was mentioned by Senator Mooney. I appeal to shopkeepers to be innovative. At a time when we are trying to get people to spend more money and to go to their local stores, traders should avail of the business opportunity I have mentioned.

I feel like I am living in a bit of a parallel universe. I am flattered that Senator Keane is so mindful of Sinn Féin policy in both Houses. Life has changed since this Bill was debated in the Dáil. As we have mentioned, it was decided today that an extra household charge of €100 should be introduced. That will change the ballpark figure. Senator Mullins mentioned that we need to incentivise people to go shopping. This measure will take money out of the pockets of the most needy people in our society, who have been hit by the universal social charge, job losses, cuts in their pay and increases in education fees etc. They are being hit left, right and centre. This extra tax, which seems to be a means of collecting money for local government, will impose an extra burden on those who spend every cent they have in their local shops. We think it would be completely counter-productive to take more of their money through this levy. If Fianna Fáil intends to push its amendment, we will be willing to withdraw our amendment and support the Fianna Fáil amendment, which recommends a level of 25 cent as opposed to our level of 26 cent and is equally fair.

Like other Senators on this side of the House, I was flabbergasted by Senator Keane's remarks on our position. The Sinn Féin Members are colleagues on this side of the House and have every right to table amendments on legislation, as does any Senator.

As I have already addressed this issue, the Senator should stick to the amendment.

If the House does not prove its usefulness, we will not be doing ourselves any justice. We should not rubber-stamp measures taken in the Dáil. Perhaps that was how it used to be and we all had some responsibility but, if we are to ensure the Chamber has a purpose prior to a referendum, we must move out of the cosy position to which we were used in years gone by.

I meant to raise a point that I subsequently overlooked, namely, the issue of the nine Border counties in our jurisdiction. People from those counties and further south often travel to the North to shop. Increasing the plastic bag levy will act as a disincentive. I know many people who cross the Border to shop on a weekly basis because they are also able to pick up free bags, which they use for putting out ashes, collecting clothes or other household chores. The law of diminishing returns may have a consequence in this case. We must be careful with this legislation, which could have many consequences. If the law of diminishing returns kicks in because we allow an increase in the levy to 50 cent, 60 cent or 70 cent, many people will go up the road to shops in the North instead of in the Republic to buy their groceries, thereby doing the State out of valuable tax revenues. For example, Asda is a large competitor of ours across the Border and gives out bags for free. Senator Wilson, a Border Senator, made an interesting comment about Asda bags in hedgerows in County Monaghan. I have seen them in west County Donegal's hedgerows and anywhere there has been illegal dumping. The local authority's litter wardens are often heard making the same remarks.

We must be careful. I know where the Minister is coming from with this legislation, but I share Senator Ó Clochartaigh's view, in that householders with diminished weekly budgets cannot afford to pay this charge. We must bear this reality in mind. I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment on the basis that we would happily revisit the legislation in 12 or 24 months time when he could return to the House and show us the scientific data on whether increasing the levy to 25 cent was the right decision. I hope he will reconsider the amendment in light of our debate.

Before the Minister responds, I wish to acknowledge and welcome the presence of our former esteemed colleague, Mr. Joe O'Toole, in the Visitors Gallery.

And all the distinguished citizens of the town of Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis.

Senator Ó Domhnaill knows the plastic bag levy has nothing to do with raising revenue. Rather, this environmental measure was introduced to dictate consumer behaviour. I congratulate the former Ministers, Mr. Noel Dempsey and Mr. Dick Roche, on introducing and increasing this levy, respectively. They had good reasons for doing so.

We want to divert plastic from landfill and every other part of the waste chain. The plastic bag levy was introduced in 2002 at a rate of 15 cent per bag primarily as an anti-litter initiative. An astounding success, it led to an immediate decrease in customer usage of plastic bags from 328 bags per person per annum to 21 bags per person per annum. Plastic bags went from comprising 5% of visible litter to 0.32% in 2002. There was a subsequent gradual increase in plastic bag usage. By 2006, usage had increased to 30 bags per person. In light of this, Mr. Roche increased the levy to 22 cent per bag in July 2007. This resulted in a decrease in plastic bag usage levels per person in 2008. To respond to Senator Mooney, the latest data indicate that, in 2010, consumer usage was at the rate of 18 bags person. The National Litter Pollution Monitoring System Report 2010 indicated that plastic bags represent 0.25% of all litter arising.

The amendments will defeat the purpose of a levy as a deterrent or as an opportunity to influence consumer behaviour in respect of plastic bags, which we all want to get rid of. It was for this purpose that Ministers introduced and increased the plastic bag charge and I included an enabling provision up to a maximum of 70 cent, if the Minister of the day so wishes. The levy cannot increase by more than 10% per annum plus the consumer price index.

Neither I nor my successors would want to end up in a situation in which, due to certain consumer behaviour, we found it necessary to introduce further primary legislation amending this Bill or the Litter Acts to increase the levy again so as to ensure there was less plastic in the waste chain. I am including an enabling provision up to a maximum of 70 cent. The Senators' amendments would tie the hands of future Ministers for the Environment, Community and Local Government when adopting measures to address consumer behaviour and the ongoing major problem throughout our countryside posed by plastic bags. Like everyone else, I want to see less plastic. We want to use a financial instrument called an environmental levy — the plastic bag levy — to assist policy in this regard by acting as a deterrent, changing consuming behaviour and meeting the objectives we all desire. By accepting this amendment, I would defeat the purpose of the objective in favour of which the Senator spoke.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3a:

In page 12, to delete lines 30 to 33 and substitute the following:

"The amount of the levy shall be specified in the Regulations under subsection (2) but shall not exceed an amount of 25 cent for each plastic bag supplied to a customer.".

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 31; Níl, 15.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 12 agreed to.
SECTION 13

Amendments Nos. 3b and 3c in the name of Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 3b:

In page 14, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:

"The amount of the levy shall be specified in the Regulations under subsection (1) but shall not exceed an amount of €65 for each tonne of waste disposed of.".

This relates to the proposed increase in the landfill levy to a maximum ceiling of €120 per tonne. On Second Stage the Minister said he would stagger implementation of the increase with a €50 per tonne increase scheduled for September of this year, thereafter increasing to €65 and €75 per tonne in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

The issue we have with this proposal is that having spoken to several local authorities and private collectors, there is no doubt but that the collectors will pass this levy on to consumers. Currently, in several counties, including County Donegal, the landfill levy is €30 per tonne. Even if one was to increase it to €50 per tonne this September, it would be almost double the current levy. If one was to increase it to the maximum of €120 per tonne, the collectors have unequivocally stated that it could lead to doubling in the annual cost of collecting waste in bins.

I know we must move away from sending waste to landfill and find alternative ways to treat and deal with waste and that we must roll out collection of the green bin for biodegradable and organic waste countrywide. However, we cannot support an increase to €120. In the north west, the average cost to households with bins is approximately €300 to €400 per annum. If this is implemented at the higher level of €120 per tonne and if waste is taken to landfill, the potential is there to substantially increase the charge of bin collection up to perhaps €600 and €700 per annum — effectively doubling the annual charge.

I know the Minister is staggering the increase in the payment but even at that, it is the wrong way to proceed. We also tabled amendment No. 3c which states that the increase should not exceed €7.50 in a calendar year. We do not dispute the increase to €50 this year but the absolute limit should be €65 per tonne and the increase should not exceed €7.50 in a calendar year. That would give scope to increase the fee by €7.50 this year which would be a substantial increase, almost 30% when one takes into account that the landfill charge this year is approximately €30.

Householders simply cannot afford to be hit with all these additional charges. We learned today of the €100 household charge being rolled out from next year. The plastic bag levy, if implemented, will have an impact on households. There is a septic tank charge on the way which will affect 440,000 households.

If this charge on collectable waste is implemented, households which are at breaking point simply will not be able to sustain themselves. The alternative is that they will run to the community welfare officer to try to get money to pay for basic household needs. Community welfare officers are not in a position to pay additional social welfare payments under the exceptional rules payments. Households will simply not be able to afford these charges, coupled with the increase in interest rates by the European Central Bank which are being passed on by Irish lenders. Households are at breaking point.

It would be more reasonable to proceed on the basis of €65 per tonne and no more than a €7.50 increase in a calendar year. This would at least give householders an opportunity to plan ahead. The increase would be staggered and people would only be obliged to pay an extra €7.50 in any one calendar year.

We appreciate from where the Minister is coming. However, as he stated, this does not relate to making money for the State. It is more about taking a joined-up approach to the overall situation regarding waste. There will obviously be a need to deal with the question of incineration at some point in the future. Trying to put in place a massive disincentive in respect of putting waste into landfill while there is no other alternative is the wrong way to go.

It is interesting that in respect of the previous amendment Senator Ó Domhnaill stated that the plastic bag levy is a revenue-raising measure. He is now stating that what is involved here is not a revenue-raising measure.

I never said it is a——

The Senator said the opposite a few moments ago. He may or may not realise that the gate fees relating to landfill sites have decreased to such a degree that materials which could be recycled are being placed in landfill. I do not believe that is in the interests of environmental or waste policy. By increasing landfill levies to such an extent, I am giving an incentive to people to move away from landfill and to seek other ways to dispose of waste. That is the essence of good environmental practice but perhaps the Senator does not want us to proceed in this way. We need to build on the work of the national waste prevention programme, particularly that aspect of it which relates to the food waste campaign. We must support the diversion of material from landfill otherwise we will not comply with our 2013 and 2016 targets. I do not want the taxpayer to be obliged to pay up to €41 million per year in fines to the European Commission in the event of our failing to meet those targets.

Diverting material from landfill is a critical element of waste policy. We are placing emphasis on increased recycling. It will not be possible to encourage people to recycle unless we increase the gate fees relating to landfill. There is evidence to suggest that discounts are being offered at landfill sites which can accommodate larger volumes. There is an incentive for certain local authorities that have spent a great deal of money on landfill sites and for private operators that have invested heavily in landfill infrastructure to ensure that the material they require is brought to their facilities. That prevents this material from being recycled or entering any other part of the waste stream. I am not exclusively depending on the landfill levy to achieve that to which I refer. A regulatory impact assessment is being carried out in respect of household food waste regulations and the rolling out of the brown bin system. I hope this will provide another incentive for people to move away from landfill.

The restrictions Senator Ó Domhnaill proposes in respect of the amount that can be charged in the form of a landfill levy would ensure that people would continue to have an incentive to move towards landfill at a time when we are trying to divert from it to meet our 2013 and 2016 targets. Failure to meet those targets will mean that we will be obliged to pay up to €41 million per annum in fines to the European Commission. I am not prepared to accept that. Accordingly, I reject the amendment.

Does the Minister agree that he is giving people an incentive to dump waste in rural areas because they will not be able to afford to bring it to landfill sites? There is already a major problem in respect of people dumping rubbish illegally throughout the country. What is proposed will only encourage an increase in such behaviour. That must be borne in mind in the context of the increases proposed. There are no proposals in the Bill regarding an increase in the fines imposed on people caught dumping rubbish illegally. Perhaps we should invest more money in order that it might be possible to deploy litter wardens in black spots where rubbish is dumped illegally.

The Senator is moving away from the amendment.

Will the Minister address some of those issues?

The Minister referred to the €41 million in fines for which the country could be liable in a few years' time if we do not divert material from landfill. That is the stark reality. However, it is the responsibility of the Minister and his Department to find alternative ways of treating waste. I accept that work is being done on this but, as Senator Wilson stated, families who pay for their bins to be collected are being penalised. In some counties waste is not going to landfill. It is instead being sent on to be incinerated or to be subjected to some other form of treatment either within or outside the State.

The Bill was amended in the Dáil to make provision in respect of incineration. However, a similar provision was not made in respect of landfill. I agree with the Minister that there is a massive issue in respect of the amount of waste going to landfill. The existing position is not sustainable but penalising ordinary consumers at a time when they cannot afford to pay extra is not the way to proceed. The only way to deal with this issue is by providing alternative methods of treatment or dealing with the overall problem of waste. Consumers should not be penalised in respect of shortcomings within a Department. I accept that efforts are being made and that the officials and the Minister work hard. In light of all of the other charges households will be obliged to pay from January next, people will simply not be in a position to pay an increase that will double their weekly, monthly or annual waste charges.

Senator Wilson is correct to state that what is proposed will lead to an escalation in fly tipping. I have spoken to environmental groups in respect of this matter and they are of the same opinion. People will dump waste over the Border or on beaches or they will bury it in their back gardens. There will be a massive escalation in illegal dumping. I am concerned that we are going down the wrong road in respect of what is proposed. I accept where the Minister is coming from and agree with the overall principle that we must divert material from landfill. However, what is proposed is not the right way to achieve this. What is being done will affect ordinary householders rather than deal with the matter on a national or macro level by developing solutions. Ultimately, operators in rural areas who may send the waste they collect to other counties or wherever will pass on the charges being imposed to consumers. It is only natural that they would do so and consumers will lose out as a result.

We fully appreciate the financial difficulties with which the State is trying to grapple. The Minister stated that the plastic bag levy is not a method for collecting revenue. Am I correct in stating that what is proposed here is a method for collecting revenue? If it is not, then can we engage in a debate on the real issue of waste management?

The Senator contradicted himself on several occasions. We cannot enhance the prospect of recycling if it is more attractive for people to put waste in landfill. Regardless of whether the Senator likes it, that is what is happening here.

It is not the consumers who are to blame.

One cannot change consumers' behaviour without providing fiscal instruments to assist them.

Consumers cannot afford to pay.

The Minister to continue, without interruption.

The country will have to meet its obligations under the landfill directives to which the Government led by the Deputy's party signed up. If we do not hit the relevant targets in 2013 and 2016, we will be obliged to pay fines to the European Commission. Ordinary people will be obliged to pay those fines through their taxes. Is that the proper way to proceed in respect of waste policy? I would like to encourage people to move towards recycling and reuse and to divert from landfill so that we will not be obliged to pay the EU fines to which I refer. In addition, under my proposals, people will have a better way of dealing with the waste management issues in their households. I am rolling out various other schemes to facilitate this. A regulatory impact assessment is being carried out in respect of household food waste regulations and the rolling out of the brown bin system.

If all of the initiatives and policies being introduced — including those relating to producer responsibility and the business community — prove successful, then less material will go to landfill and more will go to waste-to-energy facilities. We are putting an infrastructure in place to deal with all forms of waste. We are also putting measures in place in respect of diverting from landfill and providing alternatives to which people can go.

Senator Ó Domhnaill cannot expect me to support an amendment that makes landfill more attractive than recycling. The Senator's claim that the levy will be passed on to the consumer is incorrect. This provision will encourage consumers to choose the cheaper option, namely, recycling and will help us to meet our obligations on the environment under national and international law. The Senator should not expect me to come into the House and advocate breaking the law. We transposed a European directive on 31 March which was drawn up by the previous Government but never implemented. I am taking action on an issue on which my predecessor did nothing. The policies I am implementing will ensure the State does not face enormous fines arising from our failure to deal with waste management issues. I am incentivising people to go the recycling and re-use route rather than the landfill route. The Senator seems to be opposed to that. I do not accept the amendment.

I am totally confused by the Minister's response. A free recycling service is already available for many households at the doorstep.

Yes, they have a free option. The Senator wants that waste to go to landfill.

No, that is not what I am saying. Why would people choose the option for which there is a charge, namely, the bin that is going to landfill, over the free option? My point is that households are already availing of the free service for recyclable goods.

What the Senator is proposing will cost the consumer more.

Households are already availing of the free service.

There must be options.

People are already choosing the free recycling option.

Yes. Where is the Senator's problem in regard to landfill?

The Minister's argument is contradictory in that households are already availing of the free service. The problem is that there is no alternative for waste which is not recyclable, which must either go to landfill or be treated in an incineration plant, of which there is none in the north west. Households have no choice but to send their non-recyclable waste to landfill. I assure the Minister that every household in my county of Donegal with access to a green bin is availing of it to dispose of recyclable material free of charge. I have no issue with that. I agree with the Minister that it is the route we should be going.

However, if the European Union has an issue — which it clearly has — it is up to the Government, working with the people, to deal with that issue in a manner which does not negatively impact on consumers. The bottom line is that there are no alternatives in terms of the disposal of material that cannot be recycled. It is not an issue of cost because the free bin service for recyclable material is already available to a large percentage of households. It should be rolled out throughout the State. In any household in my constituency where the green bin service is available, people are choosing to recycle waste because it is free and environmentally friendly. However, the waste that cannot be recycled is currently going to landfill. The measures being introduced by the Minister mean people will have to pay higher fees for their bin collection service.

I dispute the notion that there is a free recycling service. In many cases, particularly in rural areas, a private company provides the service and an annual fee is payable in respect of all bins collected. What will happen as a result of the Minister's provision is that there will be an increase in annual collection service charges to meet the cost of the levy on the landfill element. Service providers will add a flat-rate charge to each household, irrespective of whether one's bin is full or only half full. While I can see where the Minister is coming from in principle, what will happen in practice is that all customers of private operators will be hit with an additional flat-rate charge.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin seem to be going down the road of more landfill sites in every community. They should tell their constituents where these facilities will be located.

(Interruptions).

What is the alternative? Does the Minister have a solution?

I will outline the solution. Senator Ó Domhnaill acknowledged that it is much cheaper to go the recycling route. That is why I am imposing levies on landfill — to ensure consumers opt for the cheaper option. How does the Senator envisage an additional charge for consumers in Donegal arising from the landfill levy given that a cheaper option is available to them?

Not all material can be recycled.

The Senator has just referred to the wonderful free recycling service in Donegal. I am proposing to make it more attractive for consumers to avail of recycling by imposing a levy on landfill. The objective of the charge is to act as a deterrent. I also intend to introduce legislation to facilitate the development of waste-to-energy facilities, in respect of which the previous Government gave an undertaking. That Administration talked about action in this area; I will carry it out. I will ensure we have, for the first time, a proper waste management structure which complies with national and European law and thus ensures we will not face fines. The ordinary people whom the Senator and I represent want a better waste management infrastructure. They do not want to pay fines.

If Government policy is implemented and alternatives are put in place, there will be no need for fines. It is a hypothetical question.

The Senator is contradicting himself.

I do not want to detract from the exchange between the Minister and my colleague, but Senator Ó Domhnaill's observation that not all material is recyclable recalls an issue I raised on Second Stage. There is some confusion among consumers as to whether certain types of plastic packaging are recyclable. In some cases the branding indicates they are recyclable when in fact they are not, while in other cases consumers are sending plastic packaging to landfill because they do not realise it can be recycled. I am not an expert in this area but I assume most forms of plastic are now recyclable.

This is not relevant to the amendment.

It is relevant in the context of the Minister having stated——

The amendment relates specifically to charges.

Yes, but the arguments made by both the Minister and Senator Ó Domhnaill focus on the promotion of recycling over landfill. I am merely asking whether it is the case that significant volumes of recyclable plastics are being assigned to landfill in error and whether the Department has any measures to address that.

Senators must confine their comments to the amendment.

This is not about any political party favouring landfill over any other method of disposal. The Minister is incorrect in stating otherwise. In many areas throughout the State, including in the Minister's county of Kilkenny, households have access to only two bins rather than three. We must have uniformity across the system in terms of the——

That is not relevant. The amendment deals with charges.

It is directly relevant to the amendment.

The amendment deals specifically with charges. If the Senator wants to raise the matter to which he referred, he will have an opportunity to do so in the debate on the section.

The point I am making is directly relevant to the amendment. The Government is proposing to introduce a levy to increase the cost of disposal to landfill without putting in place an adequate waste collection service to every household in the country. Waterford city has been a leader in this area for many years, with all households having access to a brown, green and black bin. However, the same service is not available from many local authorities or private operators. In those situations, the cost of the service will increase——

This is not relevant to the amendment. I will allow the Senator speak on the section.

It is directly relevant to the amendment.

The proposal is specific and relates to charges.

There are implications for householders arising from those charges.

That issue is appropriate for discussion under the section.

With respect, it is not.

The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that in 2009, 61% of waste in Ireland went to landfill, while the corresponding figure in Norway and Sweden was 1%. The difference is that in Norway and Sweden it is public policy to encourage diversion away from landfill, which is what the Minister is trying to achieve with these measures.

If the Senator accepts it, he should take heed of it.

The problem is the infrastructure is not in place.

I am trying to use financial instruments in order to divert away from landfill. I make no apologies for that because it is what must be done to ensure we do not find ourselves in breach of landfill directives in the future. Equally, it is the correct action to take for the environment. Proposals on commercial and household food regulations are out for public consultation and Senators are entitled to make a submission in that regard. I also intend to introduce measures to reduce the volume of packaging materials used by businesses and wholesalers. I am taking this opportunity to inform service providers that major decisions will be made in the autumn in regard to waste policy. This way, there will be no confusion for people in the business that there will a levy increase on 1 September and others in 2012 and 2013 to divert from landfill to other uses in the waste management structure. I agree that we need uniformity with regard to the application of the three bin system. That is exactly what we will try to do between now and the end of the year.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 17.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Daragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Ned O’Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3c:

In page 14, to delete lines 15 to 18 and substitute the following:

"The Minister shall, when amending the amount of levy standing specified in regulations under subsection (1), substitute an amount that does not exceed the amount so standing specified by €7.50.".

No bin charges.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 17.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Ned O’Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 13 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 14, before section 14, to insert the following new section:

14.—(1) The practice of incineration or thermal treatment of waste shall no longer be legal within this state.

(2) Sections 4 and 5 of the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001 are repealed.

(3) The making of a waste management plan shall be a reserved function of the local authority.".

This is an important issue. Our approach to waste management should be based on community and environmental sustainability. There are two aspects to the amendment, one of which deals with incineration or thermal treatment and the other with a repeal of sections of the Waste Management (Amendment) Act to allow councillors and elected representatives, rather than unelected officials, to make decisions on waste management. When the legislation was amended by former Minister Martin Cullen, there was much controversy over the fact that local politicians were being disregarded and that the views of local representatives were being put to one side in favour of giving unelected officials powers to make decisions on waste management. The argument made at the time was that elected representatives were not able to make the tough decisions required because of NIMBYism and other reasons. It is for this reason the law was changed. I remember very clearly that Fine Gael and other parties joined us in opposing the weakening of the powers of local government and local councillors. In keeping with this, I hope my amendment can be accepted.

We face a very significant waste management crisis. We have just debated the issue of costs. The Minister is absolutely correct that we must ensure we have waste management policies that are environmentally sustainable and robust and that encourage people to recycle and reduce waste. The Government is under pressure from EU directives, but we should not have to wait for the European Union, through a directive, to tell us to do the right thing. We should do it independently. Unfortunately, as regards incineration, the State has not done the right thing.

If one considers the Poolbeg incinerator project and the associated farce, for example, one will realise it was designed to take a volume of waste far greater than that which would be generated in Dublin. This is one of the arguments my party made against incineration. We spent years burying waste in landfill sites. The Minister touched on that issue in a previous discussion and stated we were being brought to court by the European Court of Justice because of our failure to divert waste from landfill properly. We spent years making mistakes in burying waste. My central point is that we should not make the same mistakes again by burning waste. We need to concentrate more on recycling and aim at the target of having zero waste. We should ensure the measures about which the Minister spoke, including packaging, are put in place. Thus, we could reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill or, potentially, to an incinerator.

Members of the Oireachtas and local authorities have been on a number of field trips to examine incinerators, mainly to learn about the environmental and health aspects thereof, and whether they pose a danger to health. Many of those who went on the trips saw waste incinerated that could easily have been recycled properly. That is part of the problem.

The farce surrounding the Poolbeg incinerator project was demonstrated when the councillors and elected representatives were not made party to information on costs associated with the project. Full information was not given to them, yet they were being asked to make decisions. There was outrage recently when the costs far exceeded the projected costs. Incineration is not the best way to go because if we put in place a network of incinerators across the State, we will be encouraging people to continue as they are. When incinerators are built, they need to be fed and reach a certain capacity, implying that we will end up servicing the incinerators rather than putting in place targets to reduce waste. This is the wrong approach and does not represent international best environmental practice in waste management. If we continue with failed policies, attempts to put in place incinerators and to use the same formula adopted at Poolbeg, we are heading for disaster.

The previous Government was reviewing the concept of incineration because of what had happened with the Poolbeg project. The Green Party which is also opposed to incineration was involved, and, therefore, there was a shift in Government thinking. I am not sure about the current position on that shift or about the Government's thoughts. However, I would be interested to hear them. Building a network of incinerators is not the best way to divert, reduce or manage waste. It would be the wrong approach and replace one failed system, namely, burying waste, with another, namely, burning waste.

I agree with the Senator on the third aspect of the amendment, that power be devolved to local government members to deal with waste management plans. I remind him that Poolbeg incinerator project was approved by councillors in the Dublin regional waste management plan approximately ten or 11 years ago. The democratic devolution the Senator states did not occur on many occasions did occur in respect of the Poolbeg project.

With respect, the information given to the councillors at the time has been proved to have been incorrect.

I have the greatest of respect for local elected representatives and believe they are very intelligent people who are able to make informed decisions. If they did not receive the information required, I am sure they asked for it. I am sure they had all the information they needed to make their decision.

I agree with the Senator that it was not acceptable for councillors' powers regarding waste management plans to be taken away by former Minister Martin Cullen. It was done because councillors would not take responsibility. One can give power to people, but they must accept responsibility when entrusted with it to deal effectively with issues in an open and accountable way and to make decisions for the overall good of their county and community. That did not always happen and that is why I am sure the former Minister decided to remove the power at the time. I am prepared to consider restoring as much power as possible to local elected members in the context of local government reform and devolving as many functions as possible to local government. I am sure there is a significant number of recommendations on these matters in studies carried out by the Department during the years that have never been implemented. However, I hope this will change in the near future.

The first aspect of the amendment proposes to make a particular form of waste management, namely, incineration, illegal within the State. This is a form of waste treatment that is legal under EU law. I cannot, therefore, accept an amendment that would make it illegal. The waste framework directive sets out the waste hierarchy as a priority order to be applied in waste management legislation. Incineration, where it reaches the required threshold of energy recovery, is deemed to be on the recovery tier of the waste hierarchy. I transposed the directive on 31 March this year. Landfill which is classed as disposal and below the recovery tier would remain legal under the amendment. I do not believe in making landfill legal. I proposed several amendments in the Dáil and had them confirmed in this House to move away from landfill because of the fines that would be imposed on us if we did not do so. If we do not do as I propose, we will not meet our landfill diversion targets in 2013. The amendment is contrary to the directive I have transposed.

Ireland's immediate challenge is to move away from overdependence on landfill. A range of alternative infrastructure will be required. We need to put in place a number of measures, including waste prevention measures, to meet this challenge. To make one of the options illegal would result in increased costs to the public and businesses and undermine our ability to provide alternatives to landfill and meet our obligations as an EU member state.

The second part of the amendment proposes to repeal two sections of the Waste Management (Amendment) Act dealing with waste management planning. Waste management planning is a significant part of waste management policy and deserves due consideration. It was previously found necessary to provide for the making of waste management plans by city and county managers as an executive function because councillors would not do it.

The third part of the amendment proposes to restore responsibility for the making of waste management plans to members of local authorities. I propose to examine this issue in the context of what I stated about devolution.

I will examine the issue of waste management planning and the appropriate role of authorities as part of the development of a new waste policy which will be available for discussion in October or November. I will publish a discussion document in the coming weeks to deal with these matters. For these reasons I cannot accept the amendment.

I go a certain distance with the Minister. I remember that when the Minister of the day withdrew the right of councillors to intervene with regard to waste management it attracted a great deal of criticism. However, decisions being taken on the ground were not in the national interest. I have always felt the size of our country means local and national representatives work more closely with their constituents than in other countries.

I was taken somewhat with what Senator Cullinane stated about the number of delegations which have gone to Europe to look at incinerators. While I am no expert in the area, I have come to the conclusion, particularly as a result of speaking with people — local representatives in the main — who have travelled to see incinerators in action, that modern technology means incineration is not the great anti-environmental project which many people state it is. We will have to deal with waste, and recycling alone will not be sufficient to do so. The arguments and objections put forward by Senator Cullinane, his party and others are not so much about the concept of incinerationper se, although I know he stated he was against it in principle, but about where an incinerator is to be located.

The Minister has shown himself to be independent in thought in this regard. He has tried to create a balance between restoring powers to local authorities, which I fully support as do all of us who have been elected, and taking account of the reality whereby waste management decisions must be taken in the national interest. If councillors or local authority officials were to thwart these objectives it would not be in the wider interest.

I asked the Minister about non-recyclable plastic. I am grateful to one of the Minister's officials for clarifying the matter. In principle, everything is recyclable but because of the complex nature of recycling certain components of some widely consumed plastics it would be very costly to do so, and a small country such as Ireland could not take a unilateral position on it. As a crusading Minister, perhaps the Minister will take on board an initiative at EU level to address the issue of the non-recyclable nature of some plastics. It will have to be an EU initiative and I hope Ireland will be at the forefront of ensuring this can be done. Because of our small market, we will not be able to do this and it may thwart the efforts of the Minister and the collective effort to ensure these materials do not go to landfill. Incinerators are the only way to achieve this. I infer from the figure of 0.2% which the Minister mentioned earlier with regard to Norway that incinerators are in operation there along with other waste management methods. This gives the lie to the view that we should not have incineration. It is used in Scandinavia, which is one of the most environmentally aware regions in the world.

I am in favour of incineration because not only will modern incinerator technology address the issue of landfill and recycling but it will create energy which can be recycled for the benefit of society. I make these remarks because I do not agree with the amendment and because it is important that the Minister ensures the incineration debate, which seems to have quietened down, is not resurrected by shibboleths about incineration being wrong and recycling being good with no meeting of minds between them.

This is not about me or my party speaking about big bad incinerators. I support a waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse and recycle. My point is that creating an infrastructure or network of incinerators which must be managed will mean huge associated costs of tens of millions of euros. They will then have to operate to a certain capacity to be justified economically, and this will lend itself to the Government or State agencies not putting in place resources to invest in new technologies to examine ways of diverting or recycling waste which cannot be diverted or recycled.

We accept and support moving away from landfill, but it is wrong for us to simply replace one failed waste management system, namely, landfill, with incineration. I gave a number of examples of what we should do to put in place an infrastructure. In this country, we often put the cart before the horse. Earlier, the Minister mentioned packaging and a huge amount of packaging is needlessly created and used. My party put forward a proposal that every supermarket and retail outlet should have a receptacle where people can dispose of needless packaging at source rather than having to dispose of it at home. We all know a huge amount of packaging should not be associated with many goods that are sold. Most of this is down to how goods are marketed and how people are enticed to buy them in the first place. It is not environmentally sustainable. This is an issue the Minister could examine.

The State does not have a glass recycling facility as it was closed down by the previous Government. This comes back to my point on infrastructure; we do not put in place measures to ensure we can reduce needless packaging and invest in new technology which allows us to reduce and recycle waste which at present cannot be reduced or recycled. Technology changes all the time and much work is done nationally and internationally on research and development. Ecolab and Waterford IT have done much research on how to re-use various types of waste which we see as needing to go to a landfill or an incinerator. Building incinerators which have targets to be met is wrong.

I welcome the fact that the Minister is considering new measures in areas such as packaging. I would welcome a response from him in this regard. The reason we tabled this amendment is that in five or ten years we do not want to be left with very costly monstrosities when new technology will mean less waste needs to go to incinerators.

In theory, I agree with Senator Cullinane that with regard to waste, reducing is at the top of the hierarchy. All types of new ideas will come forward in the next ten years, but what is the Minister to do in the meantime? Is he to keep all the waste in his shed or backyard? We must be realistic. We cannot continue with landfill which poisons our watercourses and pollutes our ground. At present, the solution is incineration and we must go with it.

We all very much welcome the Minister's commitment to local government reform. I hope he will follow through on this and return the powers that have been removed over the years. The amendments are either not practical at present or they will be addressed in due course by the Minister.

Senator Cullinane asked about a packaging levy. The programme for Government outlined a commitment to drive waste reduction as part of the overall policy on sustainable waste. One of the possible elements of the waste reduction strategy is a levy on packaging and the Department has commenced a process of consultation with industry. Submissions can be made until 5 August. Further details on that initiative are available on the Department's website.

Amendment put.

Vótáil.

Will the Senators claiming a division please rise?

Senators David Cullinane and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh rose.

As fewer than five Members have risen, I declare the amendment lost. The names of the Senators dissenting will be recorded in the Official Report and the Journal of the Proceedings of the Seanad.

Amendment declared lost.

As it is now 6.15 p.m. and in accordance with the Order of the House today, I must put the following question: "In respect of each of the sections undisposed of, the Schedule and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill is, accordingly, reported to the House without amendment, that the Bill is hereby received for final consideration and that the Bill is hereby passed."

I thank Senators for their co-operation with this legislation. This is also an historical occasion for the people of Dingle.

Senators

Hear, hear.

I note the patience shown by the Cathaoirleach, Senators and the people of Dingle led by Mr. Joe O'Toole, a former Member, on this matter. We have changed the town's name to fulfil the wishes of the people of Dingle.

On a point of order, I thank the Minister for his kind words.

That is not a point of order.

As a Kerryman I am privileged to be here with Senator Paul Coghlan to see this wonderful end to this long battle.

That is not a point of order.

I compliment the people of Dingle and Mr. Joe O'Toole who championed this from day one.

Can we have order? I call Senator Paul Coghlan.

In the past, Fine Gael led in extending the Gaeltacht and reopening Gaeltacht schools and now has restored the name of Dingle.

We have five Senators from Kerry who wish to contribute. They are Senators Moloney, Sheahan, Daly, O'Sullivan and Paul Coghlan. I do not have time to let everyone else in.

I want to acknowledge the inspired leadership——

Senator Paul Coghlan, please.

——of Fergus O'Flaithbheartaigh, Cian O'Connor and Dan O'Keeffe. I thank the good people of Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis.

On a point of order——

A Chathaoirligh, we have all travelled very far with this matter of Dingle's name. Could we at least be allowed to speak on this?

All Senators are out of order. Will they resume their seats?

I just want to speak a few minutes on this section.

On a point of order, is the Bill being guillotined?

Senators

Yes.

That is outrageous. Fine Gael and the Labour Party promised so much before the election to reform this House and now they are guillotining legislation.

Senator Ó Domhnaill, please.

The people in SPAs will be outraged. It is an attack on democracy to guillotine the debate on such an important Bill. I cannot understand this.

A Chathaoirligh, at least some of us should be given a chance to speak to this section.

Will Senators resume their seats? I must put the question.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 15.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.