PLANNING AND REGULATION
recommends new approaches to waste management
Ireland can take advantage of its late-mover position and leap-frog
the waste management performance of other European countries, if
it addresses blind spots in its waste management policy.
These findings were revealed in a hard-hitting independent report
- 'Waste Policy, Planning and Regulation in Ireland' - which
addresses the challenges facing the Irish waste management - undertaken
by leading European environmental consultants, Eunomia.
Commissioned by Greenstar - Ireland's largest waste management
company - and written in association with Irish consulting engineers
- TOBIN - the aim of the report is to stimulate debate and inform
waste policy decisions on a variety of issues confronting Ireland.
Published at a time when waste management activities are being
increasingly scrutinised through the lens of climate change, the
report is an audit of Ireland's current capability for managing
its waste, the regulatory environment underpinning waste planning
and the issues that will confront Ireland down the line if solutions-based
planning does not occur now.
The report is critical of the over-emphasis on incineration in
regional waste plans and the lack of consideration of alternative
waste treatment options. These are identified as major impediments
to ensuring Ireland builds world-class waste infrastructure in time
to meet the EU Landfill Directive targets - which become progressively
tighter from 2010. The length of time needed to bring incineration
plants on line, coupled with local opposition, suggests that Ireland
needs a 'Plan B'.
The report recommends serious consideration of alternatives such
as Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT), which have established
track-records internationally, lower capital costs and shorter lead
times than incinerators. MBT facilities include sorting, composting-style
processes and recycling facilities and are, increasingly, being
used to deal with waste remaining after segregation at source, in
countries with progressive waste management systems - such as Austria
The report also expresses concerns over the reliability of data
collected on waste in Ireland - particularly in relation to the
amount of waste being produced, the projections for future waste
generation and the targets for recycling.
A key finding is that there is a significant gulf between the projections
of future waste volumes outlined in the National
Biodegradable Waste Strategy and the regional waste management
plans created by local authorities and that there has been a lack
of analysis of data. The report asserts that waste planning - based
on inaccurate projections of Ireland's future waste needs - will
result in the wrong technologies and solutions being developed.
Mirroring the concerns held by the private sector and confirmed
in the recent Forfás report - Waste Management in Ireland:
Benchmarking Analysis and Policy Requirement (Click
Here) - the Eunomia Report identifies the dual role of local
authorities as both regulators of and competitors in the waste management
services market as that of 'poachers and gamekeepers'. It
concludes that the potential for abuse, whether real or perceived,
ought to be removed.
The report also highlights the way that the regulatory system differs
for public and private operators and that this is a significant
disincentive to private sector waste management companies willing
to invest in urgently-required waste infrastructure. This situation
also runs contrary to the National Development Plan, which relies
on the private sector providing the bulk of investment in waste
Commenting on the report, its author Dr Dominic Hogg, Director
and Founder of Eunomia, said - "Irish waste management has
made enormous strides over the past decade and has led the world
with initiatives - such as the plastic bag levy and the 'Race
Against Waste' campaign. However, Ireland is significantly behind
other European countries in putting systems and supporting infrastructure
in place that will allow Ireland meet its targets under the EU Landfill
Directive and provide sustainable, waste treatment options that
will also impact minimally on climate change.
"Ireland can use its late-mover position to its advantage
by learning from experience elsewhere to leap-frog into international
leadership. This must include full consideration of all waste treatment
options - particularly solutions which can be brought to market
quickly, cost-effectively and are flexible in use. Incineration
runs the risk of 'crowding-out' recycling options in Ireland's
battle to meet EU targets - especially given the way targets are
set and projections are made."
Welcoming the report, Steve Cowman, Chief Executive of Greenstar,
said - "The Eunomia Report brings invaluable national and international
insights to bear on the Irish situation. While the report recognises
that there is no 'magic bullet' solution, it looks at the
best practice available to us now, that can help us meet our EU-mandated
targets and explores a wide range of technologies not widespread
here. As we find ourselves at a pivotal point in this industry,
it is imperative that all policy makers and companies involved in
waste management work together to pursue best practice solutions
to the issues facing us.
"Looking back to 1998, Ireland thought it was setting ambitious
recycling targets. We now know we can achieve more - it's time to
set more ambitious targets."
Key findings and recommendations of the report include -
- Ireland lacks the regulatory environment crucial to ensuring
sufficient private sector investment in waste infrastructure
- Local Authorities act as regulators for markets in which they
also compete. This potential for abuse, whether real or perceived,
should be removed
- There are difficulties in reconciling the logic
for the waste targets set in national policy documents or those
in the multiple Regional Waste Management Plans.
The report finds that the methodology used in projections is 'worrying'
- with an 'enormous gulf now existing between what is projected
nationally.....and the sum of all the projections in the RWMPs'
- In order to ensure that there is a sound basis
for planning future waste management facilities and structures,
the report recommends that RWMPs be subject to independent scrutiny
regarding both projections and targets
- There has been a virtual absence of consideration
of any facilities other than incineration for the treatment of
residual waste. Alternatives - known collectively as Mechanical
Biological Treatment (MBT) - can be brought to market quicker
than incineration facilities. The absence of consideration of
MBT, constitutes a blind spot in Irish waste management policy,
plans and regulation.
Ireland needs to consider these alternative options to incineration
if it is to meet its obligations under the Landfill Directive
- A further cause for concern is that, given the
issues surrounding the data on waste, there are questions over
the data sent to the EU in 1995 to form a baseline for measuring
Ireland's performance under the Landfill Directive
The final report was completed in February 2007 and published
on 4th April 2007.
To download a full copy of the report - Click