I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 103 together.
Our current reliance on landfill as the primary waste treatment method is unsustainable. Ireland must comply with challenging targets under the EU Landfill Directive with regard to the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill or face referral to the European Court of Justice for the possible imposition of fines.
The landfill levy is chargeable on waste presented for disposal at landfill facilities. The current rate of the landfill levy is €65 per tonne. This rate came into effect on 1 July 2012 and represents an increase of €15 over the previous rate of €50 per tonne. This increase sends a further strong price signal to the producers, collectors and managers of waste, to deter against unsustainable behaviour and to encourage a shift away from landfill to waste management practices which are more closely aligned with the higher tiers of the waste hierarchy. A further increase in the levy is also planned, to €75 per tonne in July 2013.
I hope to see significantly improved levels of prevention, recovery, recycling and reuse of waste as a consequence of these increases. Assistance to both householders and businesses in reducing their generation of waste, and thus their costs, is available through the National Waste Prevention Programme, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The latest available data from the Environmental Protection Agency's National Waste Report 2010 state that 0.184 tonnes of household waste per person was sent to landfill in 2010. This equates to 0.497 tonnes per household (based on the average Irish household size of 2.7 persons), which would indicate an average increased cost per household of approximately €7.50 per annum due to the change in the landfill levy rate. However, this does not take account of the dissuasive effect of the levy increase referred to above, the intention of which is to encourage prevention and recycling and therefore decrease the amount of waste generated per household which falls subject to the levy, and reduce the impact of the levy increase on waste charges.
As the waste collection market is currently structured, the pricing schemes used by private waste collectors are a matter for determination as between the service providers and consumers of the service, subject to compliance with a service provider's collection permit and other legal responsibilities. Any consumer who is dissatisfied with the service currently provided to them may consider switching to an alternative service provider, although this may not always be a realistic option in certain areas. I would encourage consumers to seek full information from their service provider in relation to any increases to their charges, particularly in relation to the amount of waste collected and how much of their waste is being sent by the collector to landfill.
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce competitive tendering for household waste collection, under which service providers would bid to provide waste collection services in a given area, for a given period of time and to a guaranteed level of service, a system otherwise known as ‘franchise-bidding'.
I expect to be in a position to finalise proposals for Government in relation to waste policy, including household waste collection, in the coming weeks. All policy proposals will be carefully considered by Government and will take account of the full range of issues and perspectives, including the matter of waivers for low income households.
An objective of any such policy will be to help ensure that households and service providers are incentivised to behave in a sustainable fashion — pricing structures more closely aligned with the polluter pays principle are one such method of driving improved environmental performance.