As outlined in the 1998 policy statement Changing our Ways, overall Government policy on waste management is based on the internationally recognised waste hierarchy which prioritises prevention, minimisation, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and environmentally sound disposal of waste which cannot be prevented or recovered.
Changing our Ways sets ambitious targets to be achieved over a 15 year timescale including: a diversion of 50% of household waste from landfill; a minimum 65% reduction in biodegradable waste consigned to landfill; the development of composting and other biological treatment facilities capable of treating up to 300,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste per annum; recycling of 35% of municipal waste; and recycling of at least 50% of construction and demolition, C& , waste within a five year period, with a progressive increase to at least 85% over 15 years.
The Government's priorities in relation to waste management are now heavily focused on implementation. Having regard to the targets set in Changing Our Ways, the local and regional waste management plans now being implemented provide for: household segregation and separate collection of organic waste and dry recyclables in urban areas, approximately 500,000 households nationally are already served by segregated household collection of recyclables; an extended network of bring facilities, approximately 1,800 bring banks currently in place compared to around 400 in 1995; an increased network of civic amenity recycling centres and waste transfer stations, there are now approximately 50 civic amenity sites or recycling sites around the country accepting a wide range of materials for recycling; and a range of centralised composting and biological treatment facilities.
I will also be announcing shortly implementation details of additional commitments contained in the Delivering Change policy statement published in 2002 which include: a national waste prevention programme, within the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, which has as its core objective ensuring a reduction in the amount of waste produced; a market development programme to ensure that end markets exist for the materials which are collected for recycling; a national strategy on biodegradable waste which will set out measures to progressively divert biodegradable municipal waste away from landfill in accordance with agreed targets over a 15 year period. It is also intended to establish a recycling consultative forum.
In relation to deposit and refund schemes, these generally refer to systems where a payment, or deposit, is made when a product is purchased and is fully or partially refunded when the product is returned to an authorised point of collection. Deposit and refund schemes introduced to date internationally have generally targeted beverage containers, plastic containers, glass bottles or drink cans, to encourage their return for reuse or recycling. The high cost of storage and the associated demands of operating a deposit-return system are issues that would have to be taken into account in assessing such an approach.
In Ireland packaging waste recycling, including beverage containers, is organised mainly through a collective industry based scheme operated by Repak. This scheme is working successfully and in 2001 met the target of 25% recycling required under EU Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. Repak is on course to meet the higher target set for end 2005. In these circumstances, there is no proposal to introduce a deposit and refund scheme for beverage containers in Ireland. However, my Department is currently in discussions with local authorities, Repak and industry stakeholders with a view to increasing the recovery and recycling of plastic beverage containers and proposals to tackle this waste stream are being developed.
In addition to packaging my Department is currently: working on expanding the number and range of other producer responsibility initiatives, PRIs, are being developed for specific waste streams — end-of-life vehicles, waste electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE, newsprint; priority is being given to implementation of these identified waste streams; and I will be making announcements in relation to end-of-life vehicles and the implementation of the EU WEEE directive shortly.