The Government's waste policy, A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland, published in July 2012, provides a comprehensive framework of measures to enable Ireland become a recycling society, with a clear focus on resource efficiency and the virtual elimination of landfilling of municipal waste. The policy contains measures to ensure that prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery are favoured to the disposal of waste.
The latest data available in relation to waste management targets are contained within the National Waste Report 2011 which is available on the EPA's website
(www.epa.ie). This shows that Ireland is well advanced towards the achievement of its EU obligations across a broad range of waste legislation and has surpassed its targets in a number of areas including packaging, Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) and Batteries. Municipal solid waste generated in Ireland has decreased by 17% since 2007. In addition, the percentage of solid waste recovered is showing steady annual increases and the recycling rate is now equivalent to other EU members at 40%, excluding energy recovery. The increased production of combustible waste from municipal waste streams for use as a fuel is contributing to increased recovery rates, as are the recent increases in the landfill levy which have encouraged the diversion of waste from landfill to various recovery options. On foot of preliminary municipal solid waste statistics for 2012 prepared by the EPA, I expect the National Waste Report 2012, when published in due course, to show further progress in modernising our approach to waste management.
In terms of waste enforcement, action against illegal waste activity is a matter for the local authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). My role, as Minister, is to provide the legislative and policy framework under which both local authority and EPA enforcement action against illegal dumping is initiated. My Department also provides financial support to a network of local authority waste enforcement officers, as well as to the OEE.
A Resource Opportunity also contains a commitment to complete a review of the respective regulatory and enforcement roles of the Environmental Protection Agency (OEE) and local authorities. In early 2013, my Department established a group to carry out that review by examining current enforcement structures, identify the existing strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for the future. The group comprises representatives from local authorities, the regional waste management offices, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Transfrontier Shipment Office (NTFSO), the National Waste Collection Permit Office (NWCPO) and An Garda Síochana. The group has made recommendations which are currently being considered by the City and County Managers' Association and my Department.