IRELAND: Business community calls for central authority on waste

Ireland's business trade association believes the country's waste crisis will not be solved unless a central authority for waste management is created and more money is earmarked for modernising infrastructure.

“We’re not having a pop at the Department of the Environment and Local Government or the local authorities, we just feel that the structures that are in place won’t deliver what we need,” Mary Kelly of the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation told edie.

Irish businesses are facing increasing difficulty disposing of waste because landfill operators are not legally obliged to accept anything other than municipal household waste. As landfill sites come close to the end of their lifespans and public pressure against new sites runs at an all-time high, many local authorities are limiting the amount of commercial waste they accept.

IBEC understands why local authorities are less keen to accept commercial waste if it means that they can extend the lives of their landfills, but it believes the Government must act to ensure the situation improves. “Our feeling is that if we don’t have a central authority then the changes that are required aren’t likely to happen,” says Kelly. In a paper to be published next week, IBEC argues that “while regional waste management strategies and plans have been developed involving 29 local authorities in eight regional groupings, there is little evidence of their being implemented in the short term. Unless action is taken in the short term, IBEC predicts that waste from the business and commercial sectors will become a major problem.”

Under Ireland’s National Development Plan for 2000-2005, modernisation of waste management is funded to the tune of £Irish650 million (euros 825 million). IBEC believes the cost will be closer to £1 billion (euros 1.3 billion).

Also of concern is Ireland’s lack of hazardous waste infrastructure. The country exports almost all of its hazardous waste, much of it to the UK and Germany. “There are a number of pretty reputable companies that export hazardous waste and the system works like clockwork,” says Kelly. Although the system works, IBEC believes that it leaves Irish industry vulnerable. If the countries that currently accept Irish hazardous waste alter their national waste strategies, Ireland could be stuck with its waste and no facilities to deal with it. Such a situation, albeit a temporary one, has occurred in the past with clinical waste exported to the UK.

Although IBEC acknowledges the efforts of the Irish Department of Environment and Local Government as well local authorities, Kelly says that IBEC will be pushing hard for more effort and more money. “We’ll be actively lobbying and we’ll be talking to the EU,” she says.

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