Low landfill prices undercut composting

Composting firms are being put out of business because they are being undercut by low landfill prices, industry experts have warned.

A survey in 2006 showed that facilities in Ireland processing green waste were running at about half of their capacity because eligible waste was being buried instead.

Cré, the Composting Association of Ireland, called for a hike in the landfill levy and a subsidy for compost, and suggested a ban on organic waste being sent to landfill.

The association found that the number of composting firms surged following the introduction of the landfill levy in 2002 and a rise in landfill prices, but the situation has since changed.

Conor McGovern, chair of Cré, said: “Landfill prices have started to drop again and it has hit Cré members. Some facilities have been closing over the past year.”

In January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), published a report on municipal biodegradable waste which showed that the country is currently diverting 64,725 tonnes of food and garden waste from landfill.

In just two year’s time, the country is expected to meet an EU target of diverting 647,033 tonnes, rising to 941,891 tonnes by 2016.

John Curtis, of EPA’s Strategic Policy Research Unit, who wrote the report, backed the suggestion of increasing the landfill levy to make alternatives such as composting more competitive.

“If we have a strategy to achieve targets, for example on composting, we need to put in place incentives that make that happen,” he said.

Mr Curtis added: “A lot of our directives talk about what we do not want to do. It is not that clear what it is as a country we want to achieve.”

His other recommended changes included promoting home composting, subsidising the treatment of organic municipal waste, and more research into methods of treating organic waste.

Kate Martin

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