Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ceisteanna (26)

John Lahart


26. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures being taken to combat the emerging challenge of the shortage of sites for the licensed disposal of construction waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16265/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (4 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Communications)

I ask about the measures being taken to combat the emerging challenge arising from a shortage of sites for the licensed disposal of construction waste and whether the Minister will make a statement on the matter.

I thank Deputy Lahart but I did not think he was going to ask the question.

Waste management planning, including that regarding infrastructure provision, is the responsibility of local authorities under Part II of the Waste Management Act 1996, as amended. Under section 60(3) of that Act, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in the performance, in specific cases, by a local authority of its statutory functions under the Act. However, my Department has and will continue to engage with the three regional waste management planning lead authorities and other environmental regulatory bodies on the issue of having sufficient capacity and systems in place to manage construction and demolition waste.

Soil and stone waste management capacity challenges were raised by the Construction Industry Federation in 2016. In December 2016, the regional waste management planning offices jointly published a report on national construction and demolition soil and stone recovery and disposal capacity. Meetings were held in 2017 between my Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the County and City Management Association, the regional waste management planning offices and the Construction Industry Federation to discuss construction and demolition waste issues arising, primarily the capacity of the sector's arrangements to manage its soil and stone. It has been acknowledged that the granting of a number of waste licences by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2017 for clean soil and stone facilities has addressed this issue.

Additional options for clean soil and stone capacity are being considered. In January 2018, my Department issued a short consultation paper to stakeholders on the tonnage thresholds for waste management facilities for the recovery of soil and stone. My Department is currently considering approximately a dozen submissions received in that regard. Finally, it is also intended shortly to convene a construction waste resource group, which will comprise the key construction and demolition waste stakeholders. It will provide a useful platform to discuss and monitor construction and demolition waste issues, including the capacity of the sector to manage its construction and demolition waste.

This question was prompted as a result of a recent article in a Sunday newspaper. There is always the possibility of illegal dumping as a result of a lack of capacity. Is the Minister satisfied the capacity is there to deal with the problem, particularly with the ambitious plans that the Government has in the context of Project Ireland 2040 in the Dublin area, for example? An amount of excavation work would be required for a number of projects. I note the Minister's comments on the convening of the group and I know he does not have direct responsibility for this. Will he agree to revert to the Dáil on the progress made with the group?

I am absolutely quite happy to report either through the committee or in another way about the group. There is no problem in doing that.

There are three types of construction waste and I need to get my own head around this. There is "clean" or greenfield construction waste, which is topsoil and stone on a greenfield site. There is brownfield construction waste, which could include the demolition of an existing building or brownfield site that contains non-hazardous soil. There is also construction and demolition finds, sorting of residues and rubble. We have sufficient capacity to deal with greenfield sites. We do not have enough capacity to deal with brownfield sites and rubble. There is a concern that in the second half of this year we will not have enough capacity in the country to meet demand. That is why this group has been set up.

There is currently engagement with the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, looking at possible uses for some of this waste and a licensing regime must be gone through. I understand the EPA is currently awaiting information from the Construction Industry Federation on that aspect, and this would allow it to be in a position to make a decision on alternative uses for some of the construction and demolition waste.