Irish capital facing waste crisis

In a situation akin to other rapidly developing, but usually poorer nations, the Irish business community has warned that Dublin will soon run out of disposal options for its waste, a situation which has already occurred in the city of Galway.

The situation regarding waste disposal from commercial and business premises in the Dublin area could reach a crisis in the coming months with the local authority notifying contractors of restrictions on the quantities of waste allowed to be delivered to the allocated landfill of Balleally. According to the Irish Business and Employer’s Confederation (IBEC), the situation has already affected tourism in the city, which is becoming increasingly litter-clogged. Earlier this year IBEC warned that the problem was impending and was largely being brought about by an atmosphere of ‘nimbyism’, preventing the granting of planning permission of new waste disposal sites, including bottle banks (see related story).

“Dublin could face the same situation as Galway had a few months ago, with bags of refuse lying uncollected on the streets” warned Dr Mary Kelly, head of IBEC’s Environment Unit. IBEC has been highlighting the obvious gaps in provision of necessary waste infrastructure for some time, something which the government freely admits (see related feature) and has proposed the establishment of a National Waste Management Authority to better focus on the waste issue.

The current landfill at Balleally is reaching capacity and the site will be full in eight months time at current rates. Fingal County Council has decided to slow this rate by limiting the quantities of material to be accepted from waste contractors, but the real problem is that there is no alternative for much of the waste. “Contractors are being squeezed at both ends,” said Kelly. “In order to maintain their income from waste at the same level, Fingal has almost doubled the charge per tonne, while at the same time halving the quantities accepted.”

Waste contractors will have little choice but to inform their customers that they have no outlet for waste and therefore cannot collect it, IBEC says. “What image of Dublin will be portrayed when bags and bins are not collected,” said Dr Kelly. “The tourism industry has already been affected by the crisis. The image of Dublin as a city which cannot manage its own waste will not help”.

IBEC has called for the setting up of a taskforce to deal with solutions to the problem in Dublin in the short term. In the longer term, planning and provision of necessary infrastructure should be expedited. Management by crisis is not acceptable, it says, and a detailed plan dealing with short, medium and long-term solutions must be put in place and delivered upon. “It is high time that the waste problem is tackled effectively,” said Dr Kelly.

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