Hogan’s New Waste Policy focuses on Waste Prevention

Phil Hogan, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government , [25th July 2012] launched the Government’s new waste management policy, ‘A Resource Opportunity’. [pdf file 5.26MB]

Minister Hogan said: ‘This policy brings certainty to industry and other participants in the sector following five years of review. The policy also incorporates current thinking on market structures and competition in the sector, and reflects the Competition Authority’s revised assessment of franchise bidding and existing market structures.’

Minister Hogan said that our natural environment and ‘green’ image is one of Ireland’s greatest assets, ‘We must protect the environment, not only for its own value and our well-being, but for our green image, for the tourism and food sectors and to attract foreign investment. The underlying principle of this Policy is protecting that vital asset. It is about minimizing the amount of waste we produce, eliminating landfill and maximising waste as a resource to produce new products and renewable energy.’

The policy published today stresses the environmental and economic benefits of better waste management, particularly waste prevention. ‘When we cut the amount of waste we direct to landfill, we also cut costs for families and businesses. The less waste people produce, the less they will have to pay,’ said Minister Hogan.

The analysis underpinning the Policy shows that the continuation of the side by side competition model for household waste, under a significantly strengthened regulatory regime, is best placed to deliver a thriving and competitive waste sector with the associated benefits for employment. The new regulations will allow waste collection companies to continue to compete for business but they will have to adhere to new standards of service, incentivise their customers to adopt more sustainable behaviours and be much more transparent about their charging structures. ‘I’ll make sure consumers get the information they require so if they are not satisfied, they can switch provider,” the Minister added, criticising how some firms had treated their customers in recent times and the level of information provided to them. ‘It’s not acceptable for firms to ignore the genuine complaints of their customers and they will be held to account for their failures under the new system.’

A Resource Opportunity, the new policy, sets out a number of actions, including:

1. A move away from landfill, which only has 12 years of capacity left and is the most harmful approach to waste management, to its virtual elimination and replacement through prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery.

2. A Brown Bin Roll-Out diverting ‘organic waste’ such as food waste from landfill towards more productive uses as a resource opportunity, including compost production and electricity generation through anaerobic digestion.

3. Keeping costs down for the consumer by introducing a new and strengthened regulatory regime for the existing side by side competition model within the household waste collection market. This will provide the certainty required by industry, keep the costs down for the consumer and will support a diverse, competitive waste sector, protecting jobs. The Competition Authority will maintain an ongoing oversight of the household waste collection markets to ensure that it works well, with their next formal review scheduled in 2016.

4. New Service Standards will ensure that consumers receive higher customer service standards from their operator. Charging structures will be more transparent and consumers will be able to compare costs and switch operators at ease.

5. Placing responsibility on Householders to prove they use an authorised waste collection service or manage their waste in an environmentally acceptable manner. This will help combat illegal fly-tipping, littering and backyard burning of waste by a minority of households.

6. The establishment of a team of Waste Enforcement Officers for cases relating to serious criminal activity (e.g. diesel laundering) will be prioritised, in consultation with An Garda Síochána.

7. Reducing red tape for Industry to identify and reduce any unnecessary administrative burdens on the waste management industry.

8. A Review of Producer Responsibility will be examined as part of the Review of Producer Responsibility to ensure industry and business meet their obligations as producers of waste.

9. Significant reduction of Planning Regions from ten to three, allowing for greater efficiency in the delivery of planning while still recognizing geographical variations.

“The rationalisation of waste management regions is more appropriate to the scale of Ireland and the resources that will be freed up as a result will be redeployed to tackle problems such as flytipping,” said the Minister. ‘I want a vigorous approach to bringing those who abandon their waste in our countryside to justice. A key measure in this policy will be the establishment of a team of waste enforcement officers for deployment in cases relating to serious criminal activity.’

The Minister also pointed to the opportunities to generate renewable energy from waste through a variety of technologies. ‘We need to ensure that a range of appropriate infrastructure and quality standards are developed and applied, and we need to look differently at what we considered to be waste in the past, as a resource opportunity to be maximised’ concluded the Minister

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