Written Answers. - Waste Management.
Bernard J. DurkanCeist:
Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government
the progress in the achievement of an overall plan for waste management; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Government policy on waste management is set out in the policy documents Changing our Ways and Preventing and Recycling Waste: Delivering Change. The Government's approach is based on the internationally recognised waste management hierarchy of prevention-minimisation, significantly increased levels of recycling, energy recovery and, finally, utilising landfill as the last resort for residual waste that cannot otherwise be recovered.
Local authorities were asked to identify and fully assess the various issues involved, with a view to identifying the nature, scale and mix of facilities which, at a regional level, appear to offer the best balance between maximised recovery of materials or energy and minimised environmental emissions, at reasonable cost. Local authorities then prepared and adopted waste management plans which require a major reduction in reliance on landfill in favour of an integrated waste management approach which utilises a range of treatment options to deliver ambitious recycling and recovery targets. A comprehensive regulatory framework has been put in place to assist them in this regard.
The Government has made significant progress in the implementation of its overall plan for waste management. The most significant developments are as follows. Since November 2002 I have allocated over €22 million to some 71 local authority recycling projects under the waste infrastructure capital grants scheme. These include the provision of additional bring banks and modern civic amenity sites. I will be making further allocations later this year; segregated domestic collection services have now been provided in a number of major urban centres. The service now covers around one third of all households in the State. Repak, having reported that Ireland met its EU target of recovering 25% of packaging waste in 2001, continued to report progress towards meeting the 2005 50% target. I introduced new packaging regulations in February last which place obligations on producers of packaging to recover packaging waste. Almost 45,000 composting units have been provided to householders around the country at subsidised rates in recent years.
The National Construction and Demolition Waste Council was established in June 2002. This council, a voluntary initiative by the construction industry, has as its objective the securing of a significant increase in the recycling of construction and demolition waste. Other producer responsibility initiatives are being progressed, including in relation to end-of-life vehicles, newsprint and tyres. I established a scheme for the management of waste fridges and freezers on the island of Ireland with the provision of funding to local authorities to dispose of old fridges and freezers at a fridge recycling facility in Downpatrick, County Down. The plastic bag levy was introduced in March 2002 and has had a dramatic impact on consumption of disposable plastic bags. It is a valuable initiative in raising awareness of litter and waste management initiatives generally and is widely supported by the public. A levy of €15 per tonne of waste disposed to landfill came into effect in June 2002. The proceeds, which like the plastic bag levy, are payable into a new environment fund, will drive a variety of waste management and other environmental initiatives.
We have also made significant progress in waste legislation, facilitating more effective management and control. The measures involved include: the coming into effect of the Waste Management (Collection Permit) Regulations 2001 which facilitate better control of waste movements; the Waste Management (Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 2002, which prohibit the landfilling of liquid waste and certain hazardous and infectious wastes in new landfills from July 2001, in hazardous landfills from July 2002 and in all landfills from July 2009. The regulations also prohibit the landfilling of whole tyres in new, or hazardous, landfill facilities from July 2003, and of shredded tyres from July 2006. These dates are extended to July 2009 in the case of existing landfill facilities; the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2003 which impose obligations on producers who supply packaging to the Irish market, that is, manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers, to segregate specified packaging waste materials arising on their premises and to have it collected by authorised waste operators for recycling. The specified packaging materials that must now be recycled are glass, paper, fibreboard, steel, aluminium, plastic sheeting and wood.
In addition, the Protection of the Environment Bill 2003 contains a number of significant provisions to strengthen the enforcement powers of local authorities and the EPA in the waste management area. Progress towards meeting the targets set out in Changing our Ways will be reported by the EPA which is responsible for the provision of statistics on waste management generally. The national waste database report for 1998, published by the EPA in March 2000, is the most recent report available. The report provides detailed statistics on waste streams in Ireland including details on the recovery of waste. The next national waste database report for 2001 will be published by the EPA within the coming weeks.