Poor Results For Ireland in Waste Management

A new report on how Member States manage their municipal waste shows that Ireland still has a long way to go. The Irish results are remarkably poor in areas such as decoupling of waste from consumption, access to waste collection services and the rate of waste going to landfills. Scoring 19 out of 42 points Ireland ranks 15 out of 27 Member States (by contrast Austria and the Netherlands scored 39 points).

The report grades the Member States against 18 criteria such as total waste recycled, pricing of waste disposal, and infringements of European legislation. The resulting scoreboard forms part of an on-going study that will help Member States improve their waste management performance. Top of the table are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany,  the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Ireland is only one point ahead of the Member States with the largest implementation gaps which are Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Failings include poor or non-existent waste prevention policies, a lack of incentives to divert waste from landfills, and inadequate waste infrastructure. Heavy reliance on landfilling means that better waste management options such as re-use and recycling are consistently underexploited. The outlook is accordingly poor.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden by contrast have comprehensive waste collection systems and landfill less than 5 % of their waste. They have well developed recycling systems, sufficient treatment capacity, and they perform well with biodegradable waste. Typically, they blend legal, administrative and economic instruments to good effect in their waste management policies.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik says: “The picture that emerges from this exercise confirms my strong concerns. Many Member States are still landfilling huge amounts of municipal waste – the worst waste management option – despite better alternatives, and despite structural funds being available to finance better options. Valuable resources are being buried, potential economic benefits are being lost, jobs in the waste management sector are not being created, and human health and the environment suffer. This is hard to defend in our present economic circumstances.”

The Commission is using this report to prepare Roadmaps for the ten worst performing Member States. These will be discussed with national authorities at bilateral seminars this autumn, starting in Prague on 19 September. The Roadmaps will help spread best practices and will contain tailor-made recommendations on how to improve waste management using economic, legal and administrative tools, and EU structural funds.

The Commission is looking to use EU structural funds with a greater focus on the objectives of EU waste policy. The proposed Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020 will ensure that EU money is only invested in waste management projects if certain conditions are met beforehand, including the development of Waste Management Plans in accordance with the Waste Framework Directive and with the waste hierarchy, favouring prevention, reuse and recycling over incineration with energy recovery, with landfilling or incineration without energy recovery as a last resort.

A recent study prepared for the Commission estimates that full implementation of EU waste legislation would save Eur72 billion a year, increase the annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by Eur42 billion and create over 400,000 jobs by 2020.

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